Grizzly Fate was a card that was in my cube for some time, but it eventually got the axe. Nowadays, when I think of cards to use in my cube, I don’t consider it for inclusion… and it’s not because I consider the card to be garbage. My experiences with the card in my cube teach many and more important lessons than simply “don’t use Grizzly Fate.”
Cards that perform poorly are very easy to take out of your cube, since they’re failing at performing the task that brought them into your cube in the first place. For example, Aether Mutation was another 5-mana sorcery (that I used mainly on the advice of a friend) but as it turns out, Aether Mutation was terrible, since 5 mana is way too much to pay for a bounce and a marginal token generation effect, so it was easy to take out. When changing the contents of your cube, typically it’s hardest to find what card should go out for the new cards (“Yes, I know that Card X is really good, but what, if anything, should go out for it? Is Card X a better fit for my cube than something else that I’m running? If so, what?”) but with taking out awful cards, that part isn’t hard at all.
When Thornling came out in Conflux, I knew that it card was an amazing card and that I needed to find room for it. When doing this, I go deep into the think tank and look at each card in the appropriate section and try to discover any cards that I feel could be improved by the replacement. (Note that I never said anything about cards that are bad or suboptimal, since, again, these kinds of cuts are relatively easy.) When doing this type of analysis, I felt that Grizzly Fate was the right cut. As good as Grizzly Fate was when it worked, when I factored in the times that it was just overcosted and inefficient, I decided that its overall effect paled in comparison to the overall effect that Thornling offered for the same cost.
This doesn’t mean that replacements should only be done with cards with similar costs – if I was in the think tank to find a card to cut and decided to cut Sylvan Ranger, a 2-mana green card, due to it providing a relatively weak effect for 2 mana, it’d be the right call.
In addition to my cube, I have a small box of cards that contains cards that may come back into my cube. When looking for ideas for cards to come into my cube, I typically check that box first before using other resources. Grizzly Fate went into the box once Thornling went into my cube. I figured that Grizzly Fate would come back someday, like when I expanded my cube, since it was a card that I thought was still good enough to be used in my cube (unlike Aether Mutation, which I just put into my bulk multicolor box after taking it out of my cube.)
This isn’t to say that card replacements are all about replacing card X for card Y. I’ve been a proponent of approaching cube design from a holistic view and looking at a cube as more as a set than a “pile of cards.” Because of this, looking at your sections (in the case of Thornling and Grizzly Fate, green composition) is absolutely critical for a well-designed and balanced cube.
As I said on my appearance on the Limited Resources podcast about cube drafting, there are only so many spaces in a cube for higher-casting cost cards because midrange and control decks only use a few finishers. An analogy that I use is that movies don’t have multiple endings (like Return of the King did, which was still an awesome movie, mind you) and control decks are the same – a 60-card black section doesn’t need 10 6+ mana finishers since the control decks don’t require for that and having an abundance of finishers skews the composition of the decks that are drafted.
Over time, Grizzly Fate‘s chances of coming back into my cube dwindled further and further because of stronger green midrange cards like Acidic Slime coming out. Yet, Grizzly Fate stayed in the box, because I thought that it’d come back someday. Maybe when I do a massive cube overhaul. Maybe when I did a really big cube expansion.
Eventually, I realized that it wasn’t coming back, since Grizzly Fate just couldn’t keep up with the competition. Since, as discussed earlier, I only have so much room for midrange green cards and Grizzly Fate kept getting out-muscled by newer cards like Acidic Slime and Mold Shambler and cards like Kodama of the North Tree and Indrik Stomphowler weren’t going anywhere anytime soon. I knew that it wasn’t a bad card from personal experience, it just wasn’t good… enough. I knew that it wasn’t a bad card from personal experience. Eventually, I finally took it out of the box and “let it go” as it just wasn’t coming back into my cube, like I’ve with other “good but not quite good enough” cards like Undead Gladiator, Torrent of Souls and Mirri the Cursed.
Cutting bad cards isn’t very hard; they’re practically gimmes. Learning how to cut “merely good” cards with better ones requires making much difficult decisions by “letting go” of cards that you’ve had many good experiences with, realizing that although the card that’s being cut is good, it’s still weaker than the card that’s replacing it. For example, Mirri the Cursed may be a good that that has swung FTW on multiple occasions, but its overall power is still weaker than something like Plague Sliver. This kind of analysis requires a very critical and impartial eye and and mastering these skills is extremely important for having a well-designed cube.
Dear Grizzly Fate,
I’ll always treasure the time we’ve had together. Getting 4 bears after a Wrath? Those were good times.
But there’s this new green midrange card on the block, Acidic Slime that’s been on my mind. It’s been killing Treetop Villages, Mimic Vats and Control Magics. I can’t do this anymore, Grizzly Fate, Acidic Slime is so much better for me.
I tried to keep the magic that we had going, Grizzly Fate. I really tried. But I’ve moved on.
We can still be friends in Commander, though.