The Cube According to Gatherer, Part 16.5 – Intermediary Devign
Hi there! The According to Gatherer Cube is half-way through, but I’m going to need to make a few adjustments first before I begin playtesting. That’s why I made this article. It’s one-part me graphing out the changes that need to be made, and one part a log of the changes made so that when I post the full set it might make more sense why some cards are different than when they were first printed.
That said, this log is going to be rather boring.
There’s no jokes, cute pictures, or interesting introductions here. No musing about printed Magic cards. It’s just me getting the job done so I can move on to the next thing.
It’s okay if you don’t read any of this. In fact, I kind of prefer you didn’t. I’m posting this log mostly for posterity’s sake, and for the occasional person who’s curious as to what’s going on under the hood.
Here’s a quick link to the According to Gatherer archive, so you can make a quick exit if you want. Don’t mind me. I just gonna get back to work.
Preliminary changes that are long due:
Asmira’s Harbinger – Changed the bonus it gives from all white creatures to all humans.
Ghost of the Unknown Commander – Increased cost by . Increased number of +1/+1 counters by one. Removed in the activation cost.
Essence of Air – Added “You may change the target of that aura to that Spirit.”
One of Us – Changed ‘enchantment’ to ‘planeswalker’
Sporadic Vortex, Plumage Charm, and Twisted Charm fixed to “Choose one or more”
Changed the first activation in Loci Passages from , to , . Changed the second activation from to , .
White’s mana costs currently look like this (All costs in parenthesis are cards I designed and/or set a cost for, and can theorhetically be changed.) The card that costs is there to represent one of the five signets. I figured it made more sense to have it effect the overall cost of colored spells than to have it drag down the average colorless spell slot.
W, W, (W)
(2), 1W, 1W, (1W), (1W), (1W), WW, (WW)
2W, 2W, 2W, 2W, (2W), (2W), (2W), (2W), (2W), 1WW
3W, 3W, (3W), (3W), (3W), (2WW)
(4W), (4W), 3WW, (3WW)
4WW, (4WW), (3WWW)
Average converted mana cost equals 3.26. That’s probably too high for white, but I’m checking in with the other colors first.
(I’m back from checking in with the other colors. If anything, 3.26 is too low. Increased the cost of Angel of the People by and giving it first strike to help balance color disparity (I wanted to give that creature first strike anyway. It helps lifelink hit the ‘gain 3 life’ triggers before normal combat damage sinks in.)
White could sure use a few one-drop creatures (right now, it just has Devout Harpist. I’m going to set this problem aside, though, because pushing a bunch of costs down would require pushing other costs up. It would be a lot of struggle for just a couple cards.
U, U, (U), (U)
(2), 1U, 1U, 1U, (1U), (1U)
2U, (2U), (2U), (2U), (2U), (2U), (2U), 1UU, 1UU
3U, 3U, (3U), 2UU, (2UU)
4U, (4U), (3UU)
5U (5U), (4UU), (4UU)
and Treasure Cruise, which defies the concept of sorting by casting costs.
Average casting cost in blue is 3.54. Thank you giant Leviathans. The obvious choice off the top is to take one of the four 6 cost, and pull it down to 5 cost. I’m guessing dropping a 4 to 3 and a 3 to 2 is also likely.
(In retrospect, 3.5 is fine for this particular cube. Pulling down a 6 cost is still a good plan, though. Roilfoam Serpent looks weird right next to Sea Serpent anyway. Pulling the former down by , and changing it to a 4/5. -2/-1 is a bit of a drop, but it still looks good when placed next to Earth Elemental, so I’ll take it.
(2), 1B, (1B), (1B), (1B), (1B), (1B), BB, (BB)
(2B), (2B), (2B), 1BB, 1BB, 1BB, 1BB, BBB
3B, (3B), 2BB, 1BBB
4B, 3BB, (3BB), (3BB)
5B, (5B), 4BB
I’m counting Consume Spirit as 1BBB, since that seems to be the starting point where it becomes reasonable to include it in a deck.
Average converted mana cost: 3.5. Seeing how many 2cc spells are in this line up, versus how many 3cc spells, it’s odd to see the numbers skew this high. But I guess I have to expect the average number to be higher, with Gatherer occasionally choosing 7 cost bombs.
There shouldn’t be more 3s than 2s, but I can move a couple 2s down to 1 (and maybe one into 4?) Interesting that Gatherer was much more willing to commit to double colored mana in Black. Of its five 3-cost cards, all of them require double or triple black mana to play.
Reduced cost of Ambition Totem by , and p/t to 0/1.
Moving Unsoul to . If I squint, I can say the restriction is as difficult as Tragic Slip. It sure isn’t a card you want to play on round one.
Increasing Byoki-Ona by and giving it +0/+2.
Increasing the cost of Rousing Recombination by and changing it to an Instant.
R, R, R, R, (R), (R)
(2), 1R, 1R, (1R), (1R), (1R), (1R), (1R), (1R), (1R)
2R, (2R), (2R), (2R), (1RR)
3R, 3R, (3R), (3R), 2RR
(4R), 3RR, 3RR
Red’s average is 3.03. And even though that’s what a normal average for a cube is supposed to be geared toward, and Red is supposed to skew low, this is clearly too low for this cube. Some of this is Gatherer. It only supplied one 3 cost card, and four 1 cost cards. But I did design eight (?!) 2 cost cards without even noticing it was a problem. I need to push at least three of them into the 3 drop category, and move a one-cost into 3 or 4 as well.
Increased Ogre Whelp to a 2/1 for . It’s less interesting when it moves out of one cost, but what can you do?
Increased Battle Alacrity to exile two cards for . Again, what can you do? I suppose I could keep going and move this card all the way up to , but how many cards would I have to exile before it became good at that cost?
Increased Flamecore Pet by , +1/+1 to p/t, and the creature it creates by +1/+1.
Hexcraft Redactrix gets an additional for +1/+0. That seems weak, but the first strike makes it better.
Increased cost of Innerferno by , increased activation by . Now grants +4/+0. Not entirely sure this is a positive change. I also got to admit that Innerferno doesn’t really advance many of the themes of this set (sure, sure. It’s a an aura that can be sacrificed. But it could probably do more.) I should just pull it, but I wouldn’t want to unbalance playtesting, so it’s here for now.
Grasp Meaning, increased by . Splice decreased by . Not so sure how relevant reducing the splice here is, but the choice to make Grasp Meaning cost more is mostly invisible, since it’s not meant to be cast in the early game.
G, G, G, G (G), (G)
(2), 1G, 1G, (1G), (1G), (1G)
2G, 2G, 2G, 2G, 2G, (2G), (2G), (2G), (2G), (2G) (1GG)
(3G), (3G), 2GG, 2GG, (2GG)
Animist’s Awakening is counted as 2G, since that’s the first point where it seems reasonable to cast it (though, still a poor spell at that cost without some shenanigans. Headstealing Hydra is set to 1G, since it’s not unreasonable to start it there if there are a lot of counters floating around.)
Average score: 2.9
Insect enchantments skew these numbers down, though they take up a lot more mana to use than their casting costs suggests. That said, there’s a surprising lack of big green creatures in Green (X Hydra notwithstanding.) It might be best to completely change the flavor of some of the small cards to make them much bigger threats. The curve looks good, though. Maybe moving one card of each converted mana cost up one slot would do the trick?
Sciuridae Sorceror increased by . No other changes. Honestly, I thought it was probably overcosted where it sat.
Autumn Guide increased by , activation decreased by , toughness increased by +1. Not a big fan of putting +1/+1 counters on uneven power/toughness. But I didn’t want this card to be Nessian Courser Plus, and I think it loses relevancy once it hits Hill Giant.. I suppose I could have decreased the activation to … but meh.
Increased Canyon Crawler by and increased toughness by +1. That activation can be brutal, so maybe that’s all this needed.
Increased Rune-Dappled Filly by and +1/+1. Seems weird having a 4/5 horse, but if Colossapede is the standard, 4/4 would be weak.
Increased Priestess of Havenwood by , increased power and toughness by +1/+1, and added an activation of . That last part was added mostly because I didn’t like how ‘engine-y’ this card felt after I almost designed myself into a broken combo.
Increased Children of Men by and increased power by +2. It’s now an Enormous Baloth with Masquerade. I’ve seen worse. And I find the idea of an Enormous Baloth masquerading to be funny.
There’s so few gold spells right now, that this doesn’t seem worth considering. In fact, I only designed one card, so I can only change the costs on one card, and that 5-cost card costs 3 in a Spirit tribal deck, theoretically shifting the entire set further toward average three. For what it’s worth, though, the average for where the gold cards as printed stands is 4.2.
3, (3), (3)
4, 4, (4), (4), (4)
Culling Scythe was started at two. While I could see people setting it to one, it seems like that would be irregular.
Average score: 4.35
Once again, Gatherer skews up with an 8 and a 10. But I certainly helped with all those 4s, 5s, and 6s. It also doesn’t help that I’m not counting the signets on this side of the equation. I don’t feel too mad about the artifact slot being high, but still this is above above average. I should seek to move a 6, a 5, and maybe two 4s down. Low colorless sure would help all the other high color problems; it’s true, it’s true.
Neither Bedizen Vanities, nor Clocktopus want to move out of the 6 slot, and I ain’t forcing them.
Charging station reduced by , and activation increased by . I was afraid this might have been overcosted anyway.
Reduced Hall of Mirrors by and reduced its toughness by +2. Really didn’t want to do that, but I can’t have players snapping up a 0/6 for before the on theme blue player can get its hands on it.
Alright, moving onto mechanics.
There are 197 cards in set. Divided into 15 card boosters, that makes 13 packs and two spare cards. In order to have an asfan of 1, there needs to be 13 cards in a set of that mechanic (I’m cheating by throwing two cards in the set away while doing the equation. It’s just simpler that way.) Likewise:
An asfan of .5 would be 7.5 cards.
An asfan of .75 would be 9.75 cards.
An asfan of 1 would be 13 cards.
An asfan of 1.25 would be 16.25 cards.
An asfan of 1.5 would be 20.5 cards.
And an asfan of 2 would be 26 cards.
So let’s see how we stack up.
Gain 3 or more life.
Started with Illumination.
Colors: Life gain in White, Black and Green. Triggers in White. Interestingly, not many gain life cards in white (not intentional, but fine.)
Number of cards that gain 3 or more life: 13
Number of cards that trigger when life is gained: 3
This is rather ideal. Granted, I would have preferred if a couple more cards triggered when 3 life was gained, but nothing is lost from only having 3 cards trigger. Gaining life, in itself, is it’s own reward. And if you’re playing in a three person draft, you’re likely to see 7-9 gain 3 life cards float past you, assuming you aren’t fighting someone else for it.
Started with Behemoth’s Herald.
Colors: Not set in stone. Tends to favor White/Green/Red. I’m sure some people will wonder why it isn’t in Blue. Really shouldn’t be in Red, but there’s only one card there, and I’m fine with it being an exception.
Number of cards with Masquerade: 6.5 (counting Aven Envoy as half a Masquerade creature.)
Number of cards that call out a specific creature name: 5
Not ideal from an asfan perspective. But still probably fine. Masquerade is only intended to be an A+B mechanic when it rarely comes up. With these numbers, it won’t come up too often, but should happen occasionally. I don’t see a reason to change that.
Started with Kessig Cagebreakers.
Colors: Blue primary, Black secondary. Green sometimes takes advantage.
Number of cards that mill: 8
Number of cards that take advantage of mill: 15
The numbers are backwards on Mill, giving us an asfan of close to 1.25 cards on the cards that take advantage of it, over the aproximately .6 asfan of cards that do it. That’s not as big a problem as it may first appear. Many cards like Retether take advantage of self-mill… but the usual way of getting auras into graveyards works too.
I would like to see those mill numbers go up, though. Maybe not the full 13… but 10 would be nice.
Started with Pull Under (it was a busy first week.)
Colors: Tends to hover in White, Blue, Black. Precedent says I could fill out in Green or Red.
Number of Spirits: 18
Number of Arcane Spells: 6
Number of cards that benefit, or benefit from Spirits and/or Arcane: 7
No problems here to speak of. The only problem is Grasp Meaning, which has Splice onto Arcane, and there aren’t that many options to splice onto. But I didn’t intend to go out of my way to Splice work just so Grasp Meaning was good. Probably wouldn’t hurt to make a few more spells Arcane anyway. It’s one of the simplest changes I can do.
Started with Murderous Betrayal.
Colors: Black and sometimes Red.
Number of cards that suicide: 11
Number of cards that directly exploit suicide: 3
As I explained before, Suicide is a tough mechanic to center around. I missed my mark here. I could use two more cards that suicide without simultaneously ruining a player. But I also could really use a few more cards that take advantage of suicide. I’d say at least 3. Because while Heartless Hidegetsu is ‘better’ the more damage you take, that correlation isn’t obvious. Same with Unsoul. There needs to be more obvious reasons why you would want to go suicide.
Started with Avacynian Priest
Colors: All five. The traditional pecking order is White, Blue, Red, Black, then Green. But that’s not a hard and fast rule.
Number of Humans: 23
Number of cards that benefit, or benefit from Humans: 6
Well this was going to be the one category that didn’t need my help to work. Magic’s got plenty of Humans. I’m a bit annoyed with Head of Gold’s anti-human agenda… but with all the pro-Human stuff kicking around, I’m sure the Humans will be fine. Just a nasty surprise.
Started with Retether
Colors: All. Triggers in blue and white.
Number of auras that can enchant a creature: 19
Number of cards that exploit auras: 11
Number of cards that makes auras less valuable: 1
No problems here. Like Human Tribal, Gatherer was likely to make this work without my help. The Devout Harpist is annoying, but won’t stop auras from looking good.
Started with Deepglow Skate
Number of cards that include counters: 28
Number of cards that manipulate counters: 3
Again, Gatherer didn’t need my help. Seems like I should have made a few more cards that move counters around, though.
Started with Scrapskin Drake, oddly. That lead to Hiveheart.
Originally, I planned to give Green a bunch of enchantments to make sliver-like insects with. As I started working on the Blue creatures matters theme, though, I realized that a bunch of token makers in green would undermine this. So I stopped all production with 4 nests. There’s a decent argument that I should just take them all out… but I like them, so I’m keeping them until I have to pitch them.
Started with Chameleon Colossus (again, weird.) That lead to Flamecore Pet.
Number of creatures made better when you sacrifice them: 4 (counting Kingfisher.)
Number of cards that can sacrifice creatures: 9 (Bosh, Iron Golem doesn’t count because none of the creatures that want to be sacrificed are artifacts.)
This one is the biggest whiff. The creatures that are better if you sacrifice them a different way are solid. I just didn’t design enough of them. There’s plenty of sac outlets too. Given an opportunity, I need to jump that number 4 to 8. I doubt I can do that here, though.
Blue Creature Dominance
Started with Unified Will. Kind of.
Number of creatures: 107. Got that covered.
Number of cards in Blue that increases the number of blue creatures in a more than one-for-one basis: 6
Number of cards in Blue that rewards you for having more creatures: 6
This is a telling example, because I dedicated last week to getting more of these cards in. And I did pretty good, all things considered. But the end result was some 4 out of 12 cards. Even when it feels like I’m hammering an idea down, I’m still just moving the dial slowly.
Luckily, the game of Magic is one where players play creatures. And if you’re working for it, you can put more, and more cheaper creatures in your deck. So no big. And one can only have so many rewards on such a narrow goal (that’s why it’s only in one color.) But I’m pretty sure we can get more two-or-more-for-one spells in Blue.
Flying v. Anti-Flying
Doesn’t seem worth counting up. I’m sure this will either feel right, or will feel wrong in one direction or the other.
Tunnel v. Walls
Total number of cards named Tunnel: 1
Total number of walls: 3
So Tunnel is still a joke. But this came late in the design. I’ll need to work on it as we go on.
Tapping, then Untapping
A really odd theme that Gatherer seemed to force all by its lonesome. I played along. Since there’s value in untapping creatures (to block, you see) I’m cool if there isn’t enough cards to get this theme rolling. In the meantime, I’m not bothering to do the math.