A Planeswalker Section, or Hacking Rarities

As I’ve written about before (or as is obvious from a look at my list), I only run one planeswalker per color. The reason for that is that I, and the people I draft with, don’t like how game-dominating they can be. Planeswalkers are powerful in constructed, and can be even more so in highlander limited, where you can’t have four Maelstrom Pulse or Vindicate.

Gideon JuraWe’d rather see one, two, or none per draft, and certainly not more than two in a deck, and that’s what leads us to limit the number that can be the in cube as a whole. However, I find it kind of soul-crushing (I know, rough life) to realize that Gideon Jura doesn’t get a spot, and that likely no blue planeswalker ever will get a chance, no matter how cool. It also bothers me philosophically, because I like the power level of the cube and run other broken cards – Umezawa’s Jitte, Sol Ring – but I just don’t love the games that occur with tons of planeswalkers.

One possible solution I’ve been thinking about lately is to group all planeswalkers into a section, and then to add a number of cards from that section to the draft pool to suit your tastes. Of course, this doesn’t work for cubes that use the entire card pool in each draft (as in 360-card cubes supporting 8 drafters), but for larger cubes or smaller groups, it’s a possibility. For example, we might end up with around 20 cards in the section, and then could add 3 from that section to a Winston draft pool.

This method is really just a way of assigning certain cards a higher rarity than others, and you could use it for any card type you found overpowered or stifling- equipment, fast mana, or color-fixing lands. I haven’t tried it out yet, and I’m not sure I will. But I wanted to throw the idea out there, and ask if other people have done this, or if you use any other method of making certain cards rarer than others.

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18 Comment(s)

  1. Nice question!
    I have same matter for my cube (I have a powerfull cube without any P9). Since my first cube I had a draw to avoid it. When you shuffle your 360 cards to create 24 boosters, keep aside 24 more powerful cards (Jace, mana drain, Library, Sol Ring, etc) and add them 1 for each booster.
    In this way you make a simulation of a real draft, one booster = one powerfull card.
    But I didn’t…too complicated to select only 24 cards…and, on top of all, are you sure you are able to check out your 24 best cards?….I think no…:-)

    Extralex | May 16, 2011 | Reply

  2. I’ve thought about moving Planeswalkers to their own section, as my cube is large enough to support it. The upside is that you get a few more slots in your other sections and you can control how many walkers in each draft if you want – as you pointed out. I think we’ve reached a point where there are enough good planeswalkers to make this a feasible option. I don’t get to draft my cube often enough to test this idea out in a reasonable time frame as a response, but if you test it out I’d love to hear about your findings and opinions.

    Blake Stearman | May 16, 2011 | Reply

  3. No need, more powerful cards = more fun.
    This is what cube is all about imho.

    spekkio | May 19, 2011 | Reply

  4. In my (720 cards) cube, I have limited the number of planeswalker at 2 per color (except green, who got only Garruk).
    Not because it’s uberpowerful : I mean, come on, I run a HIGH POWER CUBE ! Why would I want to ban card because they are too high powered ?????

    Problem was some color has way more planeswalker than other … THIS problem needs some balance. Now with 13 planneswalker (9 monocolor and 4 multicolor) the balance is perfect … and help with the secod problem : Planeswalker are dead card if you have too much of them in your deck… That’s why I limit them, not because they are too much powerful …

    Hank | May 19, 2011 | Reply

  5. I just run all the good ones. I have found that a lot of the planeswalkers don’t work well in decks together. So drafting them is really dependent on the deck you’re running. Every once in a while some kid will go all willy nilly and draft like 5 and put them all in his deck.

    That kid loses.

    I definitely don’t play all the walkers in my cube, but they aren’t all cube quality anyway.

    Kingofweasels | May 22, 2011 | Reply

  6. I try to set a limit at 3 per colour. In white I cut elspeth Tirel, and keep other elspeth, ajani, and gideon.

    Green and black just need better planeswalkers and it will be more balanced, and then I can add more of other colours. I try to put in Nissa sometimes, with the caveat that you get up to a playset of Champion’s if you draft her, but her ultimate is so niche, that it really requires drafting all the elves to work (including the colossus), so she has been dumped.

    Come on wizards.. moar green planeswalkers!

    its0v3r9000 | May 22, 2011 | Reply

  7. I also find putting to many planewalkers in a colour will really screw up your mana curve and harms aggro in that colour (especially white).

    its0v3r9000 | May 22, 2011 | Reply

  8. Also, with more planewalkers, make sure to have lots of answers in your artifact section! needle, revoker, chaos orb, etc, are all great for equalizing the field.

    its0v3r9000 | May 22, 2011 | Reply

  9. I’d like to think that if a cube can handle Ancestral Recall, Library of Alexandria, Sol Ring, Black Lotus, and a full set of Moxes, throwing in Elspeth and Gideon together isn’t going to be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.

    PlatypusPlatoon | May 24, 2011 | Reply

  10. You could always skew the planeswalker count to even out the color power level. Like if you think red is the weakest color you can add koth and chandra (not that chandra is nuts but you get the idea).

    Also there is no need to limit it to one per color, since all the planeswalkers are not on the same power level. For instance I see no need to limit Black to one planeswalker since sorin and liliana are not exactly the same as gideon and elspeth.

    turbomoose | May 26, 2011 | Reply

  11. I think some people are missing the point. The planeswalker problem in cube is not an issue of power. It’s an issue of balance and gameplay alteration. Adding all good planeswalkers to the cube skews the color pie horribly. Let me explain. Of the total planeswalkers the split is so…W(4), U(3), B(2), R(3), G(2), Gold(6), Colorless (1). When you disperse the gold ones to their appropriate colors we get this…W(6), U(6) B(5), R(7), G(3). This doesn’t look bad at first glance but lets subtract the ones that are just bad/not cube worthy (Chandra Ablaze, Nissa Revane, Sarkhan Vol, Sorin Markov), the ones that only go in some cubes (Nicol Bolas, Tezzeret the Seeker, Tezzeret Agent of Bolas), and the colorless one since he doesn’t matter to this argument (Karn). We are now left with this distribution…W(6), U(3), B(2), R(3), G(1).

    cptawesome | May 29, 2011 | Reply

  12. Now…for those of you who are confused as to why this is a problem we need to delve deeper. Most planeswalkers assist control far more than aggro. I said most so don’t complain to me about Ajani Goldmane and Garruk. What they also do is change the way that games are played…every now and then this is fine. But it is very difficult to beat a planeswalker or two in an aggro deck…or a burn deck. They will just steamroll you with the card advantage and ballooned life total. Each white planeswalker draws white more and more away from aggro, something that is not helpful. Also, i have been a part of a number of cube drafts that due to the mass of planeswalkers, have been dominated by their presence. Having one per pack every draft is just too much. I’m not saying it is overpowered, it just messes with balance and gives control yet more unneeded help. Blue is already good enough, especially in powered cubes. I appreciate a balance between colors. And that is not possible by just shoving the best of the best in a box and calling it a cube. Building a cube is more than that…it’s building a healthy limited environment so your players have fun and have options. Planeswalkers do not shatter this balance, but adding them without strong consideration for more than their individual power level does not help…that’s all i’m saying.

    cptawesome | May 29, 2011 | Reply

  13. Lastly…green, red and black get the shaft so hard it’s not even funny. White has Gideon, Ajani, Elspeth, Elspeth 2.0…Red has Chandra, Black has Liliana and Green has ONLY Garruk. Yes Red also has Koth but…doesn’t quite make up for the disparity does it?

    cptawesome | May 29, 2011 | Reply

  14. I really think PlatypusPlatoon makes a good point here. In a powered cube there are a handful of cards that rate up there with planeswalkers. Yes, a good walker will win the game quicker possibly than power, but an ancestral, lotus or library will do a lot to progress you in the right direction. If other picks in the cube are tailored to answer planeswalkers (Pithing Needle, Phyrexian Revoker, Beast Within, Faith’s fetters, Despise, ect.), then the extra planeswalkers may be much less of an issue than other key picks.

    Matt T | May 30, 2011 | Reply

  15. Creating a rarity to certain cards of a high power-level is definitely on way to go in order to create extra balance when making packs (or a Winston pool). My 2nd cube project is definitely a testament to assigning cards rarities. The toughest problem I encountered with the mythic pool was finding fillers for red and green in order to maintain color balance. If you go with 4 cards per color in the mythic pool (Using all 4 white planeswalkers and no other additional cards for white), balance would suggest that you retain the same amount throughout and use 4 cards per color. As an example, in my Rarity cube I have a stack of 50 mythics, of which east booster gets 1. Mythics for this cube includes all of the power 9 (Library in place of Timetwister), all of the planeswalkers (Nissa is included because there are 6 Nissa’s Chosen in the common slot for green and other elf lords in respective rarities) and other extremely powerful cards.

    Matt T | May 30, 2011 | Reply

  16. I used 6 cards from each color, 6 multicolor planeswalkers, and 14 colorless to make a stack of 50 ‘mythic rares’. Beyond the moxen and lotus for colorless I included other cube-honored star first picks such as Skullclamp, Scepter, Sol Ring, Jitte, Wurmcoil, Time Vault and of course Karn. For the colored section major fillers include all-stars such as Moat, Baneslayer, Tinker, Bitterblossom, Living Death, Wheel of Fortune, Goblin Piledriver (Yes, goblins) Mind Twist, Recurring Nightmare, Inferno Titan, Survival, Goyf, Channel and Primeval Titan.

    Matt T | May 30, 2011 | Reply

  17. If you intend to hack a rarity of just planeswalkers it will definitely end up being unbalanced in white and blue’s favor, so it seems that such fillers are necessary in order to accomplish this intended goal. The top rarity need not be a pool of cards 50 deep of course; I used that number in order to support a 16 man draft without using every card in the stack. In the end, the list looks very rounded with red maybe being the weakest section in the mythic rarity spot, but in this cube list a red drafter will likely be snatching up the multiples of common red burn spells, as is the same with most lists. In singleton cubes it’s likely red and black will also have the weakest top level cards, but in such a format there are bound to be balance issues no matter what the solution seems to be. All we can do as cube designers is our best to round the edges a bit.

    Matt T | May 30, 2011 | Reply

  18. Planeswalker parity is a subject people have very strong feeling about. I doubt there will ever be any real agreement on the correct method to add them to the cube.

    As for setting up a rarity system for packs-Who evaluates the cards strengths? Most peoples assessment of a cards strength is largely opinion based.

    It is the cube after all. Almost every card in can run rampant and win the game if unanswered.

    Skill of play is the one HUGE defining characteristic that I’ve seen affect peoples opinions on rarity parsing. Play groups with a lower average level of skill will feel as though certain cards, like Planeswalkers for example, unbalance things in an unfair fashion. It’s not that those cards are unfair per say, they just require different answers than basic strategies can easily come up with.

    Every cube that is even half well built has the answers in it. It’s up to the players to pick them.

    kingofweasels | May 31, 2011 | Reply

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