Randy Buehler is a longtime Magic player, a friend of the Vintage format, co-host of the Standard Super League, and a lover of Magic Online Cubes everywhere. In November, working alongside Magic R&D, he led a complete redesign of the Magic Online Cube, resulting in the new Legacy Cube and its subsequent update.
This time, Randy and Magic R&D have set their sights on updating the Magic Online Holiday Cube! Read up on the redesign in the article below then go back to check out Lee Sharpe's latest article for details about upcoming Holiday Cube Events from July 8 through July 22.
Check out the updated Holiday Cube list.
Get the Holiday Cube and Mirrodin Block Phantom Draft Event details.
I am delighted that Wizards finally realized there is more than one holiday in the year, and we get to draft the "powered" cube on Magic Online during the middle of summer. My previous cube design projects have been centered around the Legacy Cube, and one of my goals has been to turn that into an experience distinct from this one. The project has gone well enough that they brought me in again, but this time the task is much easier. The Holiday Cube is already working quite well, and none of the themes require major surgery. Most of what I've done is make incremental upgrades by cutting unpopular cards and adding cool newly-printed ones.
The total number of cards changing is 52, but one card probably adds up to a bigger impact than the other 51 combined: we're cutting Time Vault. It's just too good, and too easy, and too dumb. Games involving Time Vault and any way to repeatedly untap it are kind of cool the first time you see them, and then the first time you draft that deck, but they're just not an interesting thing to bend the environment around for the long-term.
Time Vault may have been cut for being too powerful, but it's the only card that's not in this cube due to power-level concerns. In fact, we further embraced the "best cards of all time" theme by adding back Shelldock Isle and also adding in a collection of cards that are regularly played in Vintage but were not in the last version of this cube (Gush, Gitaxian Probe, Mental Misstep, Fastbond, Deathrite Shaman, Kuldotha Forgemaster, Treasure Cruise, Dig Through Time, and Monastery Mentor).
Meanwhile, there have been a lot of cool cards printed in the last year. In addition to the last three from the Vintage-staples list above, other newly printed superstars that made the cut include Siege Rhino, Alesha, Who Smiles at Death, Dragonlord Atarka, Gurmag Angler, Seeker of the Way, Narset Transcendent, Dragon Hunter, Soulfire Grand Master, Tasigur, the Golden Fang, Outpost Siege, Villainous Wealth, Dragonlord Silumgar, Whisperwood Elemental, Sidisi, Undead Visier, Mardu Woe-Reaper, Zurgo Bellstriker, Jeskai Ascendancy, Secure the Wastes, and Ugin, the Spirit Dragon.
Of course, figuring out what to cut is just as important to a cube update as figuring out what to add in. Luckily, Magic Online provides me with statistics on the average draft position of every card in the cube, both for the average drafter and also for those who win their draft. Cards with an average draft position of 13th, for example, are not just cards that won't help you win a draft but also cards that very few people even want to try playing with. I made heavy use of this list while figuring out what cuts to propose to R&D.
Here is a list of the ten lowest drafted cards in the previous run of the Holiday Cube. All ten of them have been cut from this incarnation:
Many of those cards are black, so we added one mini-theme to black to make up for all the aggro creatures we cut: fast reanimation. Corpse Dance, Shallow Grave, and Makeshift Mannequin each allow you to put a creature into play from your graveyard at instant speed, which means they provide you with a way to "reanimate" even the creatures that would normally shuffle themselves back into your library (like Emrakul, the Aeons Torn and the other Eldrazi). We think (hope) this will add another dimension to Sneak Attack and Through the Breach decks, as well as more traditional reanimation decks. We also added a few more discard outlets and cut the Relic of Progenitus in an effort to help the reanimation decks compete with the other crazy combo decks that are possible.
I know data is fun, so here's the flip side of that "lowest drafted list." These are, in order, the 25 most highly drafted cards amongst players who go on to 3-0 their pod:
There are lots of blue cards and lots of artifacts, which shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone who has drafted a powered cube before. The most highly drafted green card turns out to be Primeval Titan, at 46th. The first white card is Swords to Plowshares at 52nd. And the first red card? Well, it's also the first gold card on the list: Dack Fayden!
I feel pretty good about this update. I believe we have preserved everything that was already fun about Holiday Cube, upgraded the worst cards, and provided some new toys to play with. Feel free to let me know on twitter (@rbuehler) what other changes you might like to see in the future. Meanwhile, I will see you guys in the queues. Happy drafting!
Check out the updated Holiday Cube list.
Holiday Cube Changes