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Creating the Holocron: A SW:Destiny Cube Development

Cube. The mere word can strike fear in the hearts of algebra and geometry students everywhere… To fans of Magic: The Gathering, it will signal one of the most exciting aspects of a CCG. The format is loved by a large spectrum of players because it tends to blend constructed strategies with a limited format. Now it’s time for Cube drafting to enter into the world of Star Wars: Destiny.

One of the biggest benefits of Cube is that you don’t need every card. You can utilize whatever cards you have to create your Cube. For example, my Cube goal was to make a high-power, tournament level playstyle. Your cube might be all $1 rares, uncommons and commons, or simply “no legendaries”. Make Cube whatever you want. This is a great way to play in a non-competitive style.

What is a Cube?

So what exactly is this Cube thing and why would I want to play it? To summarize, Cube is a draft format that blends drafting and constructed play. The creator of the Cube decides what he/she wants the themes to be, and fills the Cube with particular cards to best match that experience.  Once the Cube cards are compiled together, the next step is to get a group of friends.

The players draft the Cube as you might draft a normal draft. Pick one card, pass the pack, pick another. Everyone continues until all the cards are selected. When all “packs” are done being drafted, the players then create a deck to play their opponents. In Destiny, this is 20-30 cards.

The beauty of Cube is that you can do whatever you want with it. However, there are some common guidelines that most Cubes adhere too. They are:

  • Balanced card availability across all colors.
  • Single copies of each card, presenting interesting and difficult picks.
  • Variety of drafting strategies to keep the experience exciting for multiple drafts.

I’ll dive into each topic below, utilizing my own Cube as an example. If you disagree with my thoughts here, that’s okay too! Cube is what you want it to be! But first, let’s discuss how I got to my Cube.

Development

I, for the most part, have left Magic: The Gathering. The only thing that keeps pulling me back is to draft the Magic: The Gathering Online Cubes. I’ve always dreamed of bringing the concept to Star Wars: Destiny. I toyed with the concept early on with Awakenings, but I quickly found the card pool to be too limiting. The game had not developed yet, and there were clear winner and loser cards. It also had another big downfall: lack of enough draftable cards to create a cohesive deck.

When the Rivals draft pack was announced around a year later, it got me reignited on the concept. Finally! Something to solve my problem for the card count. In addition, two more expansion sets had released, with Legacies on the horizon. I got to work creating my Google Doc with a card list. Go on and take a look. Note: Please feel free to utilize the format. You can download to keep track when designing your own cubes. It’s formatted to keep track of what cards you have, what dice you have, and keep you updated with your card balance. It also has spots for you to list what set and card number each selection is.

To start my planning, I wanted to look at what had already been built. I had seen other ideas of Cubes, but none of them sat well with me. Here are a few:

  • Draft characters, then deck cards
  • Create actual booster packs (3 commons, 1 uncommon, 1 rare)
  • Do the above, but have specific cards seeded into each pack
  • Have multiple copies of cards randomly inserted

Ultimately, I decided these all were terrible ideas that resulted in losing the flavor of Cube (multiple copies of a card against a single copy), unnecessary length (drafting characters and cards), and overly complicated setup (seeded packs of commons, uncommons, and rares). My Cube was going to have everything included into one pack. It didn’t matter what type of card. They were all available picks for the drafter.

Next, I toyed with the idea for the intended size of my Cube. I settled on 8 players drafting 3 “packs” of 15-cards. This is the same as a Magic draft, and it would allow a large set of cards to be used. In my Cube, the initial target number was 360 cards.

There is one big difference between Magic and Destiny though. In Magic, every card you draft can end up in your deck. In Destiny, you have characters, battlefields, a deck, and now plots too. The extra cards, especially characters, reduce the regular cards used in a player’s deck. Again, the Rivals draft pack solved this issue in my mind. I implemented this into my design. In my Cube, people would end up with a pool of 65 cards to build there 20-30 card deck.

Draft Session #1:

With my draft Cube assembled, I got my friends together and we shuffled all 360 cards together, and made 24 15-card packs. At this point, we had to proxy the Rivals draft packs and multiple Legacies cards. We simply did not have enough sets and cards fill everything.

“But Blake, isn’t that a lot of cards?” The answer is yes. Too many. My first draft with my playgroup was a disaster. Here are my mistakes and lessons learned:

Pros:

  • Drafting 3 packs. This felt great as there were lots of cards to select from, and it encouraged the best part of Cube: the draft portion!
  • I learned I have very patient friends. Most have never drafted, much less drafted a Cube. They liked the concept, and they gave a lot of feedback for me to consider before the next session.

Cons:

  • Two copies of each character card. My initial idea was you had to draft both copies of a character to get the two dice. This led to people not bothering with a character until the last few picks. Characters became unimportant because it was a high risk to get a second copy.
  • Too many character cards, and too few options for teams. With two copies of characters cards, this led to a lot of stale picks. As I said before, the last 5 picks in each packs were the leftover characters. In addition, I didn’t have enough cheap characters to select from.
  • Hero and Villain factions. I tried to force people to draft the faction and colors that matched their characters. I thought it would lead to an interesting draft style. This was awful, because card choice was limited already. People ended up with terrible decks.
  • Lack of dice mitigation. This was the biggest lesson learned, and one I stress to any Destiny Cube designer. With such powerful dice being thrown around, the pseudo-removal of Rivals did not cut it. People were not having fun when someone rolled and there was nothing they could do about it. There isn’t enough of draftable dice mitigation in a singleton format to support 8 players. It was a slugfest.

Draft Session #2

In this next version of my Cube, I changed up my design. I incorporated several changes:

  • I went in with the mindset of color-locked drafting only. No more faction drafting!  
  • I reduced the character card copies. If you drafted a character card, you could run one or two dice. This allowed me to include additional, cheaper characters while still reducing the overall character card slots in the Cube. More non-character cards could be added, and character picks became exciting! Pass that Yoda? You were not seeing him again.
  • I added additional premium removal to the Rivals draft pack. Each color got 2 neutral removal cards, such as Electroshock, plus a few gray cards, including Rend. While this meant a potential 8 copies at the table, it addressed the “slugfest” nature of the first Cube. People could fight back

Again, I learned more lessons!

Pros:

  • Premium Dice Mitigation. People felt the dice mitigation was great. The best dice mitigation, such as Doubt or Isolation, was still draftable if you wanted it. However you didn’t need to worry that you might not see any dice mitigation cards.
  • Expanded Character Selection. People enjoyed just having the dice options, and the expanded characters available. They felt their character picks mattered.
  • Factions don’t matter. It made things much easier to draft and opened up a lot of interesting game play. We saw a turn one Sith Holocron roll into a One With The Force, including other broken shenanigans.

Cons:

  • Rivals Draft Pack. With the addition of the premium removal, most of the Rivals draft pack became unused. Why use Targeting Computer when an Overconfidence would just undo your work?
  • Even more cards! Now the card pool to build a deck from went from 65 to 75. It was ridiculous on the card choices. Most people could run three color if they wanted.

Where The Cube Is Today

After the two play sessions, I am feeling very satisfied with the Cube’s progress, and I felt ready to share it with everyone. If you haven’t already gone to look at the card list, see it here. For my next play session, I think I have nailed down what the final form of the Cube is going to be. Here are my next changes:

  • No more Rivals draft pack. I created my own draft pack of premium dice mitigation, with a basic battlefield. There are enough characters available in the Cube that the neutral draft pack characters became obsolete. Upgrades are plentiful, and I took several Rivals cards and incorporated them into the Cube.
  • More Legacies! It’s a great set that added a lot to the game. I added some proxy cards into the Cube to fill in gaps in my collection. I know what cards I want to get, and I’m going to actively trade for those. That’s the best part of the Cube: It’s casual so you don’t have to get everything right away..

Let’s review the guidelines I set out to accomplish:

  • Balanced card availability across all colors. I feel I nailed this. Every color has access to aggro, control, mill, and combo style cards. The card count across colors is exact.
  • Single copies of each card, presenting interesting and difficult picks. Reducing character cards to a single card maintained the singleton style of draft I wanted. While I have an additional draft pack of cards for each player to utilize, it maintains the spirit of a Cube.
  • Variety of drafting strategies to keep the experience exciting for multiple drafts. The elimination of factions helped this go up a lot. I feel there are a lot of different card combinations that no one has even thought of yet.

With these tweaks, I feel I will have a great framework to build off of for years to come. I have a few ideas potentially, but nothing drastic. As new sets come out, I can swap in and out cards to change the experience. I plan to continue to update my Cube list, so if you like it, feel free to save the link for future reference. I’ll add new tabs with new sets, so you will always have access to old versions of the cube. If you have different thoughts on my Cube, or suggestions, feel free to comment. I’ve already considered making changes with the new meta shaping up (Hondo, I’m looking for a spot for you!)

Regardless of how you decide to do it, try Cube! It’s a great format!