Monday 4 September 2023

Homemade Cube Part 9

Being a tribute to Magic I wished to include as much as sensibly possible in the way of examples of mechanics. Some very emblematic cards and mechanics are actually horrible designs and not at all fun to play with. A challenge I relished was using a bad mechanic, or paying tribute to a dodgy card, and making it palatable in the process. 

Making a card fairly innocuous is a great way to stifle dodgy mechanics. Miracle is horrendous, it is such a swingy effect. Especially if you are sticking Time Walks, and Wrath/Fireball combos on to them.... If you make a miracle out of Revitalize however, you are not subjecting yourself to anywhere near that level of polarity

I have always hated Banisher Priest style cards in cube as they feel so polar. Great when they work, really dodgy in the face of removal, even just bounce. They are however incredibly white and cannot simply be ignored. As such I just split up the card so as to also split up the risk. You don't lose your dork and give them theirs back, just one of the other when it comes to spot removal. You still want to be a bit careful with this card and not just toss it out on any old thing that has a strong EtB effect you want to avoid giving them a second shot with, but you do at least have a card that isn't just a white knuckle shit for you whenever it is in play.

Another common white effect that I find plays poorly is removal that only hits stuff actively involved in combat. I think it is because white gets into stalls a lot of the time, and is also fairly dull, lacking in trickery, and as such pretty easy to read. Simple fix to a card dodgy for this kinds of reasons is to slap on some cycling. Cycling of sufficiently low cost makes almost anything playable! 

Cycling is just a nice clean form of card modality. And modality is another fantastic way to hide your narrow and dodgy mechanics. Planeswalkers, Charms, Confluences, Commands, and even the likes of classes and sagas all offer a kind of inbuilt modality where we can house some of our less desirable elements. 

Some mechanics are weak simply because they demand support. With such mechanics you can simply bake in the needed support to the card as a whole. Sagas do this especially well. It is just a type of polarity a card can have but it is at least a much easier type of polarity to fix than most. A lot of things need fodder to use or some kind of setup, many things beyond devour, and using tools like adventure, sagas, and aftermath can allow us to somewhat cleanly build that in. This card feels rather over tuned and should probably make three Thrull tokens and only have devour 2 on the final mode. That being said, sagas always house a lot of power. Play testing will reveal where the line needs to be for this tribute card.  

At the opposite end of the scale to this idea of baking in support there is diluting down the offending mechanic. Cumulative upkeep is fairly poor in general, as mechanics go, with very few interesting or playable cards that support it. If you take a card with cumulative upkeep and give it a EtB effect then this is going to be a part of the card that does not have its value hampered by the upkeep cost. In effect you are diluting away some of the bad mechanic! The card blow is mostly Evacuation which has no baring on the upkeep. 

Some effects are just tedious to play against and can be frustrating when on a permanent type you are unable to answer. I have put some of these effects on walkers so as to help offer all archetypes some means of answer. Bastion of Remembrance is an absolute house of a card in my cube. It was very much the inspiration behind this little walker. I wanted that effect available to black but I wanted it answerable.

In games some juicy content is locked behind a pay wall. I managed to lock away some bad mechanics behind a pay wall of sorts. There are plenty of random bad mechanics that depend on what your opponent has, land walk, protection, and that sort of thing. Intimidate is one such janky ability but when tucked away behind a reasonably expensive activation cost it stops contributing and affecting the main cost of the card anywhere near as much as it would if it were passive. It is a kind of dilution effect but achieved in a different way. 

There are the odd card that is just a soup of abilities. It is a bit like dilution but is also a bit like self support. This card supports one dull, one weak, and one bad ability (Graft, Outlast, and Heroic respectively). I am not suggesting that this is a great card or anything, either power wise or design wise, but for a cube setting it is certainly a lot more viable that most other cards supporting any of these three key words! These three seem to add value and interest to the other abilities, somewhat helping to justify them, while making them less narrow or polar. This is very much a sum greater than its parts kind of a  card. 

So there we have it, a little deep dive into how the sausages are made! I have now finished the home made cube ready for its first lot of playtesting. I rather overshot my initial plan of hitting 600 or so cards and finished a couple shy of 720! I will be whittling it down to somewhere in the 600 region in this alpha test while picking up which cards need tweaks to their designs. I will try and get the full set I am playing with uploaded as some kind of gallery. There is likely a couple more of these homemade cube progress and process style blog posts to come as well before that. 

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