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CAP 68, etc.   Leave a comment

Part 1 and Part 2 of Usman’s Amonkhet Cube article.


Posted June 8, 2017 by Usman in Uncategorized

Aether Revolt Cube Review and other such things.   4 comments

Both parts of my Aether Revolt cube review are now up on Gathering Magic.  It’s weird because I’ve seen cube updates where they’re just adding like, 3 cards, and it seems kinda odd because the set has a lot of powerful cards, but it seems like one where traditional algorithms of analysis can fail, as cards like Kari Zev’s Expertise still seem relatively underrated by the cube community, and as I assume people are going to outsource evaluations to SCG Opens, GPs/PT and whatever other events, some cards that don’t have a deck for them are likely going to remain underrated by many (like Anafenza, Kin-Tree Spirit, etc.)

As this is, well, a blog, and I’ve not really used it as one, I figured now’s a good time to do so.

One thing that I really made sure to do in this set review was to note that I’ve put these cards through many iterations of cube drafts – I cube weekly (aside from times when we don’t have enough people to draft), make (small) changes to my cube about as often, I seed cards into the draft (when trying new cards out) and aggressively ask for feedback on how the cards have been doing during new card season.

I’ve done this for years, but for some reason, I’ve always failed to note this in the language I’ve used, as, for whatever reason, I’ve stuck to the milquetoast wishy-washy language of “seems good” types of phrasing that I tend to see in writing/postings, rather than “I’ve found this card to be good, this is why” types of language that I should have been using since I had data to back up my findings.  I’ve definitely made more of a point to ask for feedback on how the cards are doing, sometimes asking at the place where we draft, other times sending contacting the drafter the next day to see how it went (a lot of the talk about how Rishkar was absurd was from those discussions after the drafter went 3-0 relatively easily with a mostly-green deck.)  This is a stark contrast to a recent time when I recommended some cube changes to someone’s cube (for Kaladesh) and he made the changes and after the draft, I asked him how the new cards were and he said that he didn’t know (he drafted another cube that he had) but that since no one complained, that it was fine, which… doesn’t really seem to say much.

Again, I have no idea why, but it seems this change in language and the amount of detail in this set of articles (from the feedback that I have received) have found that people have dug this direction that I’ve been taking my articles, from the few of you who still read them.

For those who’ve been following my work, you’ve probably noticed that my articles on GatheringMagic have mostly been set reviews, aside from an article talking about utilizing a cube expansion pack (which, ironically, I no longer use in my cube as attendance has dropped due to some former regulars being burned out on cube) as I feel hesitant on putting videos content in the same category of articles (no idea why, it may just be a completely arbitrary distinction.)

But yeah, I haven’t done a whole lot of cube design articles in the past few years despite having written, well, a lot of them (I haven’t done a count, but I’m pretty confident that I’ve done more cube design articles than any other writer has.)  It isn’t that I’ve run out of ideas, there isn’t space for them or that it isn’t worth doing but I just haven’t really gotten around to doing them in the past few years.  Part likely is due to time, it took a few weeks of on-and-off writing of the Aether Revolt article and, although I’m not on a regular writing schedule (nor do I really intend to), it’s not easy to find the time to create that content and it seems that the holistic and historical-viewing way I write is one that’s seemingly going out of style, at least if feedback (views, comments, etc.) is seen as a reliably quantifiable measure.

That said, I do have some ideas floating around in my head that I’ve been making some article drafts for which may manifest in an article or two one of these days (no, I’m not going to post what they are here, I really don’t feel like having my ideas plagiarized, thank you.)  It’s a huge stretch to say “I’m back to writing more” or “the writing spark is back” because I don’t think it really is, but I’ve at least got some ideas flowing.

Unrelated, but if you haven’t checked out Turn One Magic’s overview of the cube format, it’s worth checking out.  It’s likely the closest we’ve seen to a book written about cube and its resources.  Highly recommended, even if it may be going over material you may know already.

Posted February 6, 2017 by Usman in Uncategorized

ttp67   Leave a comment

Posted January 19, 2017 by Usman in Uncategorized

TTP66   Leave a comment

Crack-a-pack from episode 66 of The Third Power!

Usman’s Cube Reviews of Eldritch Moon, Commander 2016 and Conspiracy: Take The Crown!

Posted January 19, 2017 by Usman in Uncategorized

CAP 65   Leave a comment

From my “You Make The Cube” submission.

Posted September 23, 2016 by Usman in Uncategorized

TTP64   Leave a comment

Posted July 6, 2016 by Usman in Uncategorized

Another [insert time,] another [insert pauper cube thing]   3 comments

Eternal Masters got fully shown and, as of this post, it hasn’t been released yet and doesn’t release for another few days.  But since they’re all reprints, all of the cards are in CubeTutor, so I updated my list.

I wrote my first article over 6 years ago (wow does time fly) and a few months later,  in July 2010, I created my own pauper cube to see how I would tackle that format and see if I could improve on that concept, as pauper cubes were still very new at the time.  It’s mostly been a side project as people generally don’t get as excited for pauper cube as they do “regular” cube.

I tend to update my regular cube frequently (despite not reflecting it in CubeTutor lists) and even despite decreasing numbers at ye olde LGS, I’ve been maintaining both lists regularly, as we do pauper cube at the end of the month and as Eternal Masters came out, it was a good time to update that.

In the past year, I did a big “reboot” of my pauper cube and I’ve been very happy with the results so far.  Like with my regular cube, my initial pauper cube experiences with other cubes were shaped by cubes with weak aggro support and I’d found similar things with pauper cubes that I’d drafted back then and sometimes in cases with pauper cubes that I’ve drafted in the past few years – and worked to make that not the case in my pauper cube.  Here are some examples of some 3-0 decks from drafts that I’ve had recently:

pauper - 2016 05 31 RG

pauper - 2016 04 12 Jund

pauper - 2016 02 23 RW

Pauper - 2015 12 02 GBw

Pauper - 2015 11 25 W

I don’t tend to draft this cube as much as I’d like to, but I’m pretty happy with how it’s turned out, as cards that people tend to think of as dominant like Capsize and Rolling Thunder really haven’t been in this iteration and it feels like this iteration of my pauper cube is a significantly different iteration now from when I’d windmill slam generic value dudes like Gravedigger.  As noted by the dates in the screencaps, this encompasses many months (I haven’t really blogged about the pauper list, or really anything here lately) and as such, there are some cards that I don’t currently run, but in that time period, from November 2015 to now, it’s all pretty much the same ideology that’s been driving it.

However, that doesn’t mean that I don’t want to look at how I want to customize and change the format (as unfortunately, there’s a general thought process to want to say “card X is good, card Y is bad” for changes to a list rather than wanting to curate a cube as a draft environment, as a card not being in a list should not be considered as thinking of a card as bad, nor dismissal of its worth in a cube.)  Here are some thoughts and some goals that I want to look into.

  • Although I’ve liked how some of the artifact/metalcraft cards have been, I’ve felt that I could push them further.  I’ve seen those cards used more as a “side project” rather than a full-on artifact deck.  Some test runs in CubeTutor where I forced that deck left me unsatisfied with how deep that theme is running.  Some time ago, I talked with Kranny about when he creates a cube list with power as a palate cleanser, as he noted happiness with some of the artifact cards like Ardent Recruit and Galvanic Blast.  Due to that, I’ve pushed artifacts (and included cards like the artifact lands) but going by his ratios, I’ve got some ways to go to making artifacts more of “a thing” in my list.  I haven’t seen a lot of lists use artifact-centric cards, so I’m in pretty unfamiliar territory, but hey, that’s what I did in the old days – as I remember discovering Soltari Trooper for my cube back in the day when searching Gatherer for white cube 2-drops.
    • This then begs the question that, say if I want to add 20 cards, where would they come from? Multicolor’s a pretty tight ship at 2 per pair (noting hybrid as different, per blog post, as there’s 3 of each color represented by WUBRG except for black, which has 2) and there’s not really much room elsewhere.  WUBRG?  Is that worth it?  Some cards like Neurok Stealthsuit, Horned Helm, Byway Courier and Confront the Unknown can help to organically help push artifact cards, but is it worth it to push it harder?For example, the above mono white 3-0 deck had 9 artifacts.  The drafter said that Ardent Recruit was a 3/3 about 50% of the time, which is pretty nice, but I feel that I can push that further.  I’m hoping for some more Investigate cards on the level of Thraben Inspector (which unsurprisingly has been great, even in decks that don’t care about artifacts) but that’s asking a bit much; but a few solid role-players could really help.  I haven’t used cards like Sanctum Gargoyle, Faerie Machinist, Pyrite Spellbomb and some others, but these cards may help with pushing that identity.  But it doesn’t feel like I have quite enough artifacts to run cads like Faerie Machinist, as I’d want around 13 artifacts to run it in a deck, and I don’t feel like I’m at that yet.

      Still, I think this experiment for artifacts has been going pretty well and it’s a good first step.

  • Ironically, I want to make draw-go more of a deck (none of the pictures above are of that archetype; it’s a small sample size, but something I’ve noticed not just amongst 3-0 decks.)  A lot of that deck’s historical strengths – hard counters and wraths are seen much less in pauper, and I’ve been weighing what I want to do for that deck.  Re-introduce cards like Glen Elendra Sentinels, Nephalia Seakite and the 4U 3/3 flash fliers as things to do on the opponent’s turn/ways to supplement counterspells/Mystical Teachings and other things to reward the drafter for drafting a deck similar to BU Faeries (in Lorwyn x3/Lorwyn x2+Morningtide.)
    • In that vein, I’m going to look to push more “value” strategies like the aforementioned draw-go strategies.  There’s definitely ways to do so – like re-adding morphs like Skinthinner and Shaper Parasite and cards like the new “flashback” creatures from SoI (Ghoulcaller’s Apprentice, Dauntless Cathar,) and I’ll be looking to how to shape that aspect of my pauper cube.
  • Find out how far I want to push the black “aristocrats” identity in black.  I’ve loved cards like Nantuko Husk and their synergy with cards like token producers.  It’s more of how I want to support those cards in other colors, like if it’s worth putting in cards like Dragon Fodder, Krenko’s Command, Gather the Townsfolk, Fists of Ironwood (that on a Husk seems absurd) and others like Dregscape Zombie.
  • Whether cards like Siege Wurm, Living Totem and Kavu Primarch are worth using in green, especially if using the aforementioned Husk-friendly cards.

But yeah, I’m very happy with how my pauper cube’s been going; if you haven’t drafted one before, give it a sample draft or two with the Cube Tutor list.

Regarding Eternal Master’s additions to it, I’ve only had one draft with it and I forgot to seed the packs with the new cards like I usually do.  Oops.  Oh well, to the cards themselves: Read the rest of this entry »

Posted June 6, 2016 by Usman in Uncategorized