Evaluating Cube – Methods to your madness

We’ve all been there. You’ve been working on your cube for months, you start playing, and you think it’s all great. You’ve got all your revised duals, your multicolour section is tiny and tight, and archetypes are varied and balanced, to most degrees. How can you judge what needs to be changed?

Well, arguably, nothing needs to be changed if your cube is running smoothly, but if you’re cube is good, but not great, here are some easy tests for your cube:

Creature ratio test

This is mostly a simplified version of a test described by Mark Oberdries in this article . It tests whether you have the correct ratio of aggro to midrange to control creatures in the cube for each theatre of play to be viable. It’s based on the premise that an aggro deck might run 12-16 creatures, in order to secure that it drops a turn one creature, a turn 2 creature etc, whereas a control deck might only run 5-8 creatures. Of these 5-8, maybe 2 will be ‘control only’ cards (which tend to be finishers), and the rest will be midrange or utility creatures.  Therefore, you need way more aggro creatures than control finishers, and midrange cards fall somewhere in the middle. In his article, Mark outlines that you should have 3 aggro creatures to 2 midrange creatures to 1 control creature in your cube. My trouble with this is that it’s pretty hard to define each creature within it’s archetype here. I mean, Elite Vanguard and Steppe Lynx are clearly aggro cards, and Sphinx of Jwar Isle is clearly a control card ; The problem comes when you have to classify cards like Mother of Runes and Llanowar Elves. They’re good in control, midrange, and (some) aggro decks. Where do I put them?

This lead me to simplify the test greatly. Instead of it being a 3:2:1 ratio of aggro creatures:midrange creatures:control creatures, it’s a 3:2:1 ratio of 1-2 drops :3-4 drops:5+ drops. This removes any subjectiveness, and should mean that your cube shows up more favourably. My cube has  a 71:61:27, or 3:2.6:1.1. This means that I should see that my cube is pretty midrangey, which has proven to be the case. According to this test, I should lighten up on the 3-4 drops in favour of a few more 2-3 drops. This might come from red, where I’ve been looking to change 3 or 4 cards for a while now.

The Terminate Test / Vindicate Verdict

This is a test devised to check the value you get when you play a creature. There are two variants – the terminate test and the vindicate verdict. One checks how much value you get out of a creature if it’s instantly terminated, the other checks it’s value if vindicate is played on it at the nearest oppotunity byour opponent. I won’t go into great detail about them, since I’ll just be repeating this post here. Long story short, a four drop can fail these tests if it’s powerful, but it’s a point in their favour if they do pass it. five drops have to be pretty powerful to be included if they don’t pass the test. I think the only five drops which don’t pass the test in my cube are Meloku and Baneslayer. Finally, I don’t think you can run a 6+ drop in cube if it fails the vindicate verdict. The bar has been set very high for these creatures, and mediocre ones aren’t good enough. I think you could justify it if you had a 10/10 trampler for 6, but anything smaller than that won’t make it.

Guild deck search

This is actually a great way of checking cards, but it gets weaker dependent on your size, with it being strongest at multiples of 360. The idea is that you take each colour pair, and you make a deck of what that colour pair is good at. This could easily be boros aggro, GR ramp, UR counterburn, BW control etc. This should use up 230 cards of your cube. At 360, this is just under a third of your cube undrafted. At about 500, you could make shard decks, so you could have about 30% of your cube undrafted, and at 720 ,I’d probably just make 2 decks for each pair.

Then, you search through your remaining 30%. Why didn’t they make the cut in your deck? Are they too narrow? Are they too weak? A common reason they haven’t been MDed is that they just don’t fit the archetype. I mean, Crater Hellion might be left behind because you’ve make 4 aggro decks and a counterburn deck, none of which Crater Hellion is a shoe-in.

The main question you have to ask is : Would this card usually make it into XYZ deck I’ve made? For instance, if I were making the perfect boros aggro deck, I might leave out Goblin Patrol and Jackal Pup because I had Elite Vanguard and Savannah Lions. This isn’t because Goblin Patrol and Jackal Pup are bad, it’s just that the other cards are better in this situation.  If you can’t fit a card into any of the decks you’ve made, it’s probably time to give that card the heave-ho.

Cube mana cost test

See, I’m not sure how this test works, or what maths it’s based on, but as long as I’ve been cubing, this test has been there. Apparently, the average cmc of your cube is proportional to how fast your cube is ; A higher average cmc means a slower cube. This makes sense, because if you have a lot of 1 drops, and therefore a very fast cube, the cmc will be lower. What I don’t understand is why the target number is 3. According to most cubers, it’s a good thing to have your average cmc under 3, and it’s a bad thing to have it over 3. This is general for your entire cube, and for each section, where red, black and white should be under, and blue and green could be slightly over.

Testing Archetypes

This is a pretty cool way of looking at your cube and finding cuts. Instead of laying your cube out by converted mana cost and creature/noncreature, sort it by each archetype it supports in each colour. Put all your black discard together, all your white weenies, all your red burn etc etc. Then, you should be able to see which areas of your cube are under/over subscribed. Obviously some of these sections are larger than others ; red burn will probably be bigger than red LD, for example.

This is also useful if you want to find a cut. If a sweet new discard spell has been released, sorting like this will allow you to either find a cut in an area with lots of redundancy, or allow you to upgrade a card in another section.

I should also mention this can be run in reverse. First, write down what each colour is good at. So for blue, this might be card draw, counterspells, bounce and stealing other colours stuff. Then, sort each colour into these groups as best you can. You’ll probably be left with a small section of cards. Some of these will be broken, like Land Tax, some will be colourshifted, like mana tithe, and some will be awful, like Dawn Charm.

Know any other tests to pull on your cube? Write about them in the comment section!

Thanks for reading,



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