Thursday, 24 August 2023

Homemade Cube Part 8


Today we are going to be making some predictions based on design choices. I currently play a pretty reliable 17 lands in my 40 when playing my main cube these days. This is up over the years as mana sinks and sources of value have gotten better. Scrap that, as tempo has become more important, is the predominant reason. Those first two things mean you don't suffer floods as badly when and if they happen but really it is about the tempo. You want to just curve and you want to do so in tempo positive ways, either efficiently shutting down theirs, or progressing your own. The best way to win in my cube these days is by having a powerful midrange deck full of generically good cards and then curving out all the way to five while managing to usefully spend all fifteen mana along the way, ideally capping it off with some absurd five drop. More lands makes this more likely. I would likely be playing nearer 18 lands per deck if it were not for the fact that so many cube cards draw and dig and generally help you to curve.

I predict that in my homemade cube I will be playing closer to 15 lands on average. There are a lot of reasons why I think this will be the case so lets have a look at each in turn. Firstly my curve is lower in the home made cube. There are a lot more one drops and rather less three drops and upward, all pulling the average down somewhat. In a very simplified way, if there is less to spend mana on you are going to need less of it! I think this will be the more significant of the factors that reduce the number lands I want to play.

A more subtle factor is that I think the top end in my homemade cube is less powerful and less able to brute force a win. In a world where your five drop is winning you the game quickly and reliably you want to get there as fast as possible as is increasingly the case in my main cube. I don't think my homemade top end is quite so alluring and as such not as important to arrive at punctually. 

One of the other factors that I tweaked in the homemade cube was the reduced cost of card advantage and card quality, with an increased abundance in the latter. If it costs less, you are going to be able to play more, and are incentivized to do so, and there being more around makes that easy to do. More filtering and digging effects typically result in fewer lands getting played. 

The card above also reminds me that there is a fair amount of incidental treasure in the set as well. Both cards give you treasure and those giving it away. These really help get you over those key threshold. You might have a deck which only ever needs five mana for two five drops. For those five drops to be relevant enough of the time they need supporting with sufficient lands. You might well however be able to trade a couple of lands into treasure generating cards, get the same level of playability out of your five drops, and increase the overall threat and power density of your deck. 

Inspired by the quality of the one mana basic land cyclers in Tales of Middle Earth I ended up packing two full cycles in my home made cube. This is comprised of a 4 and a 5 drop dork in each colour, each with a single flavourful key word and a relatively low power, by cube standards at least. These cheap cyclers are very alike to the MDFC cards in function and I expect them to see a lot of play and replace a lot of lands in the process. Lorien Revealed is one of the most played five drops in the more powerful constructed formats already. I similarly expect the land cyclers to be some of the most played in my cube. 

Further to that I slapped on a lot of "Lay of the Land" effects onto Charms and other modal card fairly often, both as a way to give low impact card neutral options thus lowering the narrowness of some of these cards, but also just as a good way to increase game consistency. While not quite as potent as the land cyclers I suspect the relative abundance of these will add to that effect in a relevant way.

Mana sinks are getting better and more common. There is just always some land to activate, some card in the bin to escape or flashback. Just some dork you can pump a load of mana into. This is not the reason I am playing at least 17 lands in my normal cube, as discussed, that is mostly for the tempo. The perk of the mana sinks is simply that I am happier about playing more. Things do not go so disastrously when you flood out a bit. A flood these days is far less problematic than a screw. While I do have mana sinks a plenty in my home made cube they likely fail to impress more than the raw card advantage tools on offer. As such I expect people to be drawing more cards and playing more cards, rather than investing more mana in cards already in play. I feel like my mana sinks offer less in the way of reach than existing ones, and there is relatively less power in them. If you are drawing more cards rather than investing more mana in existing ones then you will draw more lands with them and not need such a high ratio of lands to spells in the first place. 

So there we have it, a collection of reasons as to why I expect to play significantly less lend per deck in this homemade cube meta than I am accustomed to; 

Lower curve. 

Less powerful top end. 

Abundant card quality and cheap land cyclers.

Efficient card advantage.

Pleanty of treasure and cards that search up basics.

Less exciting and powerful mana sinks.

Looking forward to seeing if I am right and if I have managed to artificially cut land counts in decks by a significant margin (well over 10% in terms of lands and by 5% considering all cards) simply with considered card design. If so I might try my hand at other similar challenges. That is of course, assuming we also hit the main objective, that of being a fun format to play!

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