Cube idea, good or bad? Ante/conspiracy/alt-win combos

The Kitchen Table forum

Posted on May 20, 2023, 4:51 p.m. by legendofa

I've had this thought for a while now, and I haven't done anything with it, so now I'm making it everyone else's thought.

Ante cards like Darkpact are banned in every sanctioned format, because they come dangerously close to breaking gambling advertising laws, and have a high risk of feel-bad moments in general. In a cube, though, all the cards go back to the same box at the end, and "ownership" only lasts as long as game night, so there's no stakes or permanent loss of cards.

To add to the ante antics, and use more cards that can't reasonably be used anywhere else, the Conspiracy cards and Draft matters cards like Backup Plan, Smuggler Captain, and Cogwork Spy could fit well into a cube, since the whole purpose of a cube is to be drafted.

The final element of this cube idea is to sprinkle in some two-card "you win" combos, like Sunbird's Invocation + Approach of the Second Sun, Plunge into Darkness + Near-Death Experience, Biovisionary + Rite of Replication, or Chance Encounter + Frenetic Efreet. These should provide a little treasure hunt for the draft. I would like to keep these all 2+ colors and 6+ total mana value, to avoid making them too easy to reach (numbers are arbitrary and open to consideration).

Would this be an interesting cube to draft, or would it just be too complicated? My goal is to get some mind games going for those who want them, while still allowing for a more straightforward draft. My concern is that using too many of these gimmicks will end up in decks that are flashy, but lack fundamentals.

Caerwyn says... #2

Ante in cube is an idea that seems a lot more fun than it likely would be. Since everyone is drafting, the bulk of their cards are going to be in specific colours. That means the person playing the ante card is often going to be a massive disappointment - playing someone in a different colour than you? You’re basically guaranteed to get something useless.

Perhaps if it was Sealed rather than draft, where lack of competition for the same colours means you’re more likely to see an enemy in your same colours, but even that is very hit or miss.

May 21, 2023 2:35 a.m.

legendofa says... #3

Caerwyn Thanks for the feedback. Are you speaking from experience or from analysis?

I'm wondering if there's a critical mass of color fixing that would help alleviate that problem. The ante cards always struck me as adding an interesting layer to games as long as "ownership" could be redefined, and playing a casual ante tournament and returning all cards at the end requires solving some logistical problems: Which format should it be based on? How do you track which cards belong to which player? How do you enforce the rules of returning cards?

Mostly, for my first point, I'm looking for ways to use ante cards. They were printed with the intent of being legitimate game pieces, and I'd like to find a safe way to use them that doesn't involve actual gambling.

May 21, 2023 1:27 p.m.

Delphen7 says... #4


I think it's an interesting idea, I'd just make sure the people you're playing with are emotionally ready to potentially lose a bomb or combo piece. Otherwise (╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻) might happen

You touched on mana fixing, but another way to solve Caerwyn's issue would be to have high quantity of colorless cards, so that everyone can play them regardless of what colors they're actually on.

Additional Combos

I don't think Sunbird Invocation combos with a single Second Sun.

May 22, 2023 2:59 p.m.

legendofa says... #5

Delphen7 Good point about losing combo pieces. I would try to keep this casual and friendly, but letting people know of the risks is a good idea.

I thought about Jace, Wielder of Mysteries + Tainted Pact, but Pact will stop at basic lands. If someone builds a draft deck with no more than one of each basic land and wins, they deserve that win. Demonic Consultation is better, but it slips under my desired 6+ mana. The Malignus one is great, and I had Door to Nothingness and Coalition Victory on the list, so good ideas there.

Sunbird's Invocation triggers on cast, not resolution, so I guess it won't work with Approach of the Second Sun...

May 22, 2023 3:56 p.m.

Caerwyn says... #6

Only from analysis, but I feel fairly confident in that analysis. Consider:

  • The average ante card is likely to hit a land 42.5% of the time (17/40 - a fairly standard land base in Limited). Of those, you’re very likely to hit a basic land - which you could have gotten out of the basic box anyway.

  • Even in a colourless heavy meta, your odds of hitting a colourless are going to be pretty low. The odds you hit a colourless card which also improves your strategy or also debilitates your opponent’s deck are pretty low (and the odds of debilitating your opponents deck being worthwhile for you - meaning you hit the card in game one or two - are even lower).

The odds just are not on the side of Ante being fun, and that’s before we look at the cards themselves:

  • Amulet of Quoz either turns the game into a literal coin flip or is just exiling a single card from the top of an opponent’s library. Either it is a troll card if it resolves which can cause issues with folks twiddling their thumbs waiting for rounds to end or it is a mediocre mill card someone spent 6 mana for.

  • Bronze Tablet - maybe playable. Maybe. It is a ten mana theft piece that allows your opponents to take something back from you. That means for it to be playable, you must be in the position where you can play a 6-mana artifact, and activate it (either that turn or by surviving a turn), have something on your opponent’s side worth taking, have nothing on your side better than what you would take, and be in a position where your opponent won’t just take back what you stole. There’s a lot of things that must go right to make the card playable.

  • Contract from Below - Arguably the most powerful card ever printed in the entire game, this has no place in your cube. It’s just too good, especially in 40 card decks. Every time it is played, it is likely to be the game decider all by itself.

  • Darkpact - interacts badly with the math above. Odds are nothing will be worth claiming from ante, making this a three mana card just sitting about doing nothing in your hand.

  • Demonic Attorney - Really bad card with the above math. You’re spending 3 mana to very likely get something completely useless to you into ante.

  • Jeweled Bird - One mana for something that can only recover a card you likely can afford to lose. It would feel great if you got unlucky with what you ante, but otherwise it is almost always going to be a dead card.

  • Rebirth - Awful, awful card for limited. This stretches out games and can interfere with the timing of rounds.

  • Tempest Efreet - Again, the math is bad for this card, particularly since you’re going into an unknown zone and your opponent goes into the choice with perfect knowledge of their risk.

  • Timmerian Fiends - In an artifacts matters cube where there is heavy artifact recursion, this might be playable. Still, it requires a very specific set of circumstances for someone to draft into and make it worthwhile.

I should probably add the caveat that some players might find it fun, even if the math makes it very, very clear that the Ante cards are all traps (excepting Contract, which, again, is just too darn good).

May 22, 2023 4:09 p.m.

Abaques says... #7

I think I agree that ante probably wouldn't work out well. But I for some really wild times I'd recommend looking at the Mystery Booster playtest cards (Scryfall query: I was just at MagicCon Minneapolis and played a couple of sealed Myster Booster events. First off, don't do sealed with Mystery Boosters, they are gonna be a billion times better in draft. But some of the playtest cards were great. I got to resolve a Command the Chaff and it was glorious. An opponent beat me with Abian, Luvion Usurper and it was also pretty great.

May 22, 2023 5:08 p.m.

legendofa says... #8

Does ante have any place in the game at this point? Or should I just let it be quietly forgotten?

Caerwyn I was planning on excluding Amulet of Quoz and Contract from Below pretty much exactly for the reasons you outlined, and I agree with your analysis, but I'm curious about what empirical testing will come up with. I have to admit, you're confirming what I was concerned about.

Abaques I forgot about the Mystery Booster cards. I'm probably not going to add all 100+ of them, but a good handful could spice it up.

May 22, 2023 9:07 p.m.

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