The 360 Question – Part 1
Before I dive into anything spicy, I suggest that you check out one of my favorite cubists Usman on Limited Resources last week. I speak very highly of him and it shows exactly why when you listen through.
Today, however, touches upon a subject that has come up before and appeared in said podcast: with a variety of cube sizes why stay so close to 360?
As hinted at and almost broached during the discussion, having a cube of 360 cards creates the tightest environment possible. Just as Limited deck in general benefit the most from adhering to exactly 40 cards, a cube that can carry only the bare minimum of a full draft (eight players with three packs of 15 cards each) has a few special properties:
- Individual card changes immediately and meaningfully impact drafts
- Redundancy (something I’m fond of) becomes more powerful
- Randomization, pimping, and storage management are the easiest
- Consistency of draft experience is higher (consistency of appearance of archetypes)
While some of these benefits are actually a bit trivial (Storage size and pimping, really?) there are a few more words to share. I’ll start with the first item and move through the others over the next few days.
Individual Card Changes are More Meaningful
When you’re building a deck the traditional theory is to adhere to only as few cards as legally required: 40 in Limited and 60 in most Constructed environments. The reasoning is quite mathematical: by minimizing the total number of cards you are maximizing the odds of drawing any individual card, assuming random distribution through your deck. While manipulating the actual number of copies of cards you play also weighs in, as do effects that filter and draw cards, the fact is that when you really want to draw a specific card in ever game you want your deck to be as small as possible.
Unlike formats specifically designed to be more random, such as the ubiquitous Elder Dragon Highlander, cube is meant to be sculpted and intentional. While the singleton nature of cube may imply randomness the fact is that it’s actually more like a Magic set than just a pile of stuff. The cumulative incremental value of card choices in conjunction with the synergy between these picks results in something akin to an engine: moving parts all working in harmony.
And the simpler the engine – the fewer moving parts – the more important each part can potentially be. If I want to upgrade individual pieces or change how a feature is functioning, for example how blue is working as a color, then a handful of changes shift the whole unit. The quality of the changes immediately reflects in the experience resulting.
That’s one of the biggest lessons I learned in working with my cube: smaller makes everything mean more.
Cubes function as a set, albeit strange and wonderfully powerful ones. Making the tough choices and sculpting as tightly as possible within the minimum of 360 is part of what makes cube so exciting for me since I get my doses of pure randomness elsewhere.
That, and it’s a crash course in why developing Magic sets is both technical and experiential: you have to see and feel it to know.