Randy Buehler is a longtime Magic player, a friend of the Vintage format, and a lover of the Magic Online Cube. Recently, he has been working with Magic R&D, leading the design for a complete Cube overhaul. With its release rapidly approaching, we asked him to write an article to give you all an inside look at the design of the fantastic, new Legacy Cube.
I am a big fan of Cube drafting in general, especially on Magic Online. The improvisational skill required to draft a good Cube deck is unmatched by other formats and the combination of fun and nostalgia is intoxicating. Recently, I’ve been letting my friends in R&D know that I thought they had been neglecting the Magic Online Cube, and that I thought it had grown a bit stale (and a bit schizophrenic). I volunteered some suggested changes that partially informed the last batch of changes they made, but this time around I was delighted when they asked me to lead the design process for a complete overhaul of the Magic Online Cube!
The first thing that needed to happen was to clarify the overarching theme of the Cube. The tricky bit is to sort out the relationship with the Holiday Cube, which is fully powered and typically only run once per year. There are some themes (storm and “artifact matters” in particular) that work significantly better in a Cube that has been designed around the inclusion of fast artifact mana, and the presence of smaller (terrible) versions of those themes in the Magic Online Cube has always bugged me. It turns out that Tinker isn’t very good when there aren’t enough cheap artifacts to sacrifice to it, and there isn’t much that you can go get with it either! Storm is probably more controversial, as I know some people love to chase a good storm deck even when it’s almost impossible to actually put one together, but the stats on those decks are remarkably bad. In the end we decided we really wanted to make sure the Magic Online Cube had an independent identity from the Holiday Cube.
So here’s where we landed:
- The Holiday Cube should run more than once per year! Two or maybe three times per year is better, but there should definitely be a second Cube as well (and that second Cube can and should change more dramatically over time).
- That second Cube should not include any of the Vintage restricted cards that define the Holiday Cube. In fact, as of this article, the Magic Online Cube has a new name: the Legacy Cube, and every card that appears in it will be legal in Legacy.
Powerful cards, like Jace, were not
removed from the Legacy Cube;
one-dimensional cards were.
We briefly discussed radically changing the theme of the Cube, but at the end of the day we all agreed that “Best of Magic” or “Greatest Hits” Cubes are just awesome, so the Legacy Cube will continue to be a Greatest Hits Cube. In fact, nothing was cut purely on the basis of power level—not even Jace, the Mind Sculptor. We cut some “hits” that were highly non-interactive (aka, straight-forward and/or dumb whether you’re playing with them or against them), so you won’t find True-Name Nemesis in the Legacy Cube and there aren’t any Swords either. We also cut some of the one-dimensional red cards (like Ball Lightning) that make it hard to keep all red decks from turning into mono-red aggro decks (so splashing another color should make more sense now), but mostly we just looked for the most exciting and powerful cards we could find.
In order to decide what made the cut, we started completely from scratch. This was not a process of tuning the existing Magic Online Cube by cutting and adding cards. Instead, we started by throwing that Cube away and trying to see how many different sub-themes we could make work. (Significant R&D time and playtesting went into this Cube and R&D has committed to updating it on a regular basis as well.) We expected to wind up with significant overlap at the end—it’s still a Cube after all—but I was pleasantly surprised that we wound up with well over 25% of the cards being new.
One of the biggest changes from the previous Cube is the size. My first draft had 660 cards (down from the 720 cards in the Magic Online Cube) because I wanted to cut some of the “chaff” and also make sure the themes I was trying out would show up often enough to matter. The next draft had 630 cards and by the time development was over we were down to 600 cards. This should still be plenty of cards to give the Cube replayability, but it means the average quality of the spells in the Cube is higher. The last cut was driven primarily by conversations about land: we wanted to make sure the density of multi-lands was in the right place, but we did not want to have to include some of the less exciting land cycles that (in my opinion) junk up the old Magic Online Cube.
Look forward to a higher ratio of
multicolored cards in the Legacy Cube.
I don’t want to go sub-theme by sub-theme through all the cards in the new Cube because I don’t want to spoil anyone’s discovery process. We went through a ton of different themes and did our best to make sure everything that made the cut is powerful, open-ended, and interactive. I will point out that this Cube has six gold cards per two-color pair, which is up from five each in the previous version. Combined with the fact this Cube is 120 cards smaller, this definitely makes it feel more “gold.” I will also point out that there aren’t nearly as many creature sweepers as in the previous iteration, so creature decks (especially aggressive ones), should be better positioned to succeed. Beyond that, though, I really want to hear what decks you are able to make work, and which ones you think are the most fun to play with.
I feel really good about this new Legacy Cube. I think it will be a lot of fun to draft and I will be in the queues right alongside you, drafting far later into the night than I should. I also feel really good about R&D’s commitment to pay more attention to this Cube moving forward, and to update it more regularly and more substantially. Now if only I could figure out how to make the days pass faster until this goes live.