Thursday, April 19, 2012

Cube Blog: How Standardized is Too Standardized?

The Cube format is supposed to be a singleton format and yet the more changes I make, the more standardized I find my Cube becomes due to a redundancy of redundant spells & effects. Take these latest changes, for example:

- Fire-Belly Changeling
- Skeletal Changeling
- Smother

+ Forked Bolt
+ Magma Spray
+ Sarcomancy

Cube may be a singleton format, but I think my Cube is a little weird when it comes to the issue of redundancy versus randomness. My Cube has exactly 90 creatures with morph, which means that every match is going to feature morphed creatures, with rare exception. This also means that there is going to be an expected power level, pace, and flow to each of those games. You could say that by choosing to focus the Cube around the morph mechanic, I've already removed a lot of the randomness found in other normal games, at least within the first 3-5 turns of every game. Sure, each morphed creature can unmorph and turn out to be almost anything, but until that happens there is kind of an expected turn progression that will unfold. (If someone has 3 mana available on turn 3, they're probably going to be playing a morphed creature on that turn.) And if turns 1-5 are dominated by mana rocks and 2/2 creatures, I think an expected answer to these expected threats is a good thing.

This is where the issue of removal comes in.

With the addition of Forked Bolt and Magma Spray, I've now included every single 1 mana, 2 damage spell in the game. This includes spells like Burst Lightning, Electrostatic Bolt, Firebolt, Galvanic Blast, Seal of Fire, Shock, Tarfire, Assault/Battery, and Dead/Gone. This also includes spells that reduce a creature's toughness by 2 such as Dead Weight, Disfigure, and Immolation. This makes a total of 14 of these types of spells in the Cube. How many is too many? The spells are good, the removal is necessary, and they're (mostly) 1-for-1 spells so they're never going to be over powered. Put all this together and I think the only way to tell when "enough is enough" is through lots and lots of testing. As of right now, I've decided to cap the limit in these types of spells at 15. If more are created after that, I'd begin swapping newer ones for existing obsolete counterparts. (That'll give it a total of 15 of these cards in a 360 card Cube. Or you could say that 1 in 24 cards is a "2 damage removal spell.")

Unfortunately, this means that Smother gets the axe. It doesn't fit the mold. You could say the same thing for cards like Fire/Ice and Nameless Inversion, but those fit other themes of the Cube that I think I'll leave them in, at least for now.

And then we come to Sarcomancy which is redundant with other cards like Carnophage, Diregraf Ghoul, and Gravecrawler. I like the idea of black having the ability to drop a 1cc creature that can trade with any unflipped morph. Except for Goblin Guide (which is included in the Cube for a number of reasons that I explained HERE), this feature is unique to black... and I kind of like that. The redundancy of these effects kind of helps to make each color unique. And I hope all this translates for all the people who are participating in the draft.

Of course there are many more redundancies in the Cube (that I've probably covered in other articles somewhere on this site), but the same ideas remain the same.


And then an hour after I publish this post, WotC decides that the next Avacyn Restored spoiler is going to be this:

- Trial/Error

+ Pillar of Flame

(With the inclusion of Pillar of Flame, that makes 15. If any other 2 damage 1cc spells are printed, one of the existing spells is going to get cut.)

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