Epic Cube Experiment 5

Recently, I have had an enlightening conversation with a fellow cuber on the mtgsalvation forum. We discussed the viability of Mental Misstep and how it compares to Pact of Negation. The two of us disagreed on everything which should immediately raise alarms in your head. Pay attention to cards that you and your group may have differing opinions on. It may not be performing; hence it is time for it to go. This brings me to my topic for today, how to properly evaluate cards for cube.

First, let us go back to my original argument. Mental Misstep and Pact of Negation both do not rank highly on the list of playable counters. Mental Misstep only targets 1cc spells while as pact doesn’t come online till the midgame. Okay then, what is the purpose of including them?

Shoring up the traditional weakness of control towards 1 drops is what Mental Misstep does fairly adequately. On the play, control has a turn where it is not possible to counter a 1 drop and on the draw this gap becomes two turns. Mental Misstep excels on the draw, being fairly marginal on the play. 1 drops have the greatest impact on the first two turns and their level of impact steadily drops afterwards. Best case scenario is having Mental Misstep when the opponent plays a 1 drop. Worst case scenario is not having it and drawing it long after it is relevant. Someone suggested Spell Snare; it is definitely a step above. 2cc spells outnumber 1cc by a fair margin, yet it is still too narrow to make it in. Performance is based on the average 1 drops each drafter has drafted and chosen to maindeck. All of this is built on the assumption that control does not have adequate answers to 1 drops. I do not believe this is the case. There are better solutions to the problem. Cheap removal like Forked Bolt, Oust, and Disfigure can keep 1 drops in check, remaining relevant in more matchups and decks.

Sure, you can give me a list of relevant targets besides 1 drops: top, tutors, tax, clamp, recall, and disruption. Control in the majority of cubes need less help than aggro. Why do I need a narrow counter to increase the percentage of a good matchup? Shouldn’t I be doing the opposite instead? Yes, there are applications in the control mirror. Not being able to counter a top isn’t a huge problem. Tutors, no one cares about them. All proficient control players know to counter the card that is being tutored for. Land Tax is only good on the draw turn 1 or with bouncelands, it can be played around in the late game. Skullclamp is insane but you can kill all their dudes or ignore them. Ancestral Recall is the only real threat on the list. Disruption punishes players for keeping loose hands; regular counters can handle them past turn 2. Conventional cube wisdom says that aggro’s power is proportional.

In terms of viable targets, pact has more. Pact of Negation is intended to protect combo and tapout control, performing best in countering big spells. Combo can ignore the “you lose” the game clause while control can afford to pay for it. Terrible to draw early, gets better late game and hard to play around similar to Force of Will. Not an auto-include by any means.

Notice the amount of analysis I gave. This is the amount of consideration that I give to each candidate. Some are more easily dismissed than others like Mental Misstep. Originally I had brushed it aside but the conversation led me to explore it more in depth. After doing so, I remain unconvinced. I am surprised to hear that it performed well in testing and that the fellow cuber was a recent convert. I proceeded to bring up the question to a group of well known cubers, counting Andrew Cooperfaus, Greg Hatch, and Chingsung Chang among its members. As expected, I received a near universal reply of no with the exception of two individuals.

All we have done so far was theorizing the applications and potential outcomes. No actual testing has been conducted, a lot of times it will be unnecessary. However if all the facts up to this point still do not convince you then you will have to resort to testing. Testing is not entirely foolproof, the sample size may not lead to a definitive conclusion. Winning 10-0 does not mean you will go 10-0 in the next set. Take things with a grain of salt. As cubers we prefer our cards to be consistent, ones that swing from one end of the spectrum to the other is unwanted. Isamaru never excelled at its job, he is merely solid. Mental Misstep is awesome against a certain set of cards in a certain deck and useless against most. I would take the dog any day of the week. Word of advice, always try to envision the worst case scenario. Good cards will always outperform bad ones in the long term regardless of outliers. Always be open minded, listening will lead to unforeseen outcomes. I have been guilty of not doing so along with many magic players out there.

Maintaining a cube is more complicated than it looks. After each set release, I would reevaluate my entire cube to see what has been rendered obsolete or is not performing up to par. I hope you guys found this article educational. Please discuss and comment.


Go big or go home.