Holistic Wisdom – BCSM And The Ghost Of Billy Mays

Monday, April 18 – In this week’s edition of Holistic Wisdom, Usman talks about how to not include cards in cube based on their best-case scenario and falling victim to BCSM.

In this article, I’ll be talking about BCSM and how to understand it when it comes to cube. BCSM stands for Best-Case Scenario Mentality, coined by
Marshall Sutcliffe and Ryan Spain of the podcast Limited Resources. The term
refers to when people look at a card in its absolute best case (and vice versa with WCSM: Worst-Case Scenario Mentality). As Marshall and Ryan focus on
Limited, they stress the importance of not being the victim of BCSM in Draft and Sealed. But it’s especially important for a cube designer to not fall
prey to the lures of BCSM. Why?


Cards make it into cubes because the cards promise to perform a certain task, whether because they appear on an efficient creature, a power or splashy
spell, or something like that. No one’s going to include a card in their cube because it seems to do something decently. (“This card should be okay in
white aggro. I’ll include it, even though I think it’ll end up 13th—15th pick. W00t!”)

Thinking in terms of exaggerated thought makes it so that a person really only thinks in absolutes because it prevents the person from looking at the
card’s overall effect, instead focusing on the best/worst-case scenario and needlessly keeping in a suboptimal card in their cube with the cost of
keeping something better out.

Exaggeration and hyperbole have unfortunately become common in Magic circles with people making claims that a card is the BEST EVAR/WORST EVAR, but in
most formats, exaggeration tends to get evened out by the fact that players from around the world are trying to evaluate the power level of a card.
Granted, that doesn’t stop hyperbole from happening when it comes to evaluation, but once results start showing that a card is powerful, generally
people’s opinions tend to shift. Regardless, when looking at new cards, people are mostly working on a theoretical level, and these cases are when
BCSM/WCSM can really take over. We saw this when Jace, the Mind Sculptor got previewed—there were some who thought that it sucked (in Standard, not so
much in cube) because it just died to Lightning Bolt and Blightning. But that’s easy—Jace is insane in cube. What about other examples of how BCSM and
WCSM can affect people?

One of the most prominent ones is when people compare cards and focus too much on differences. When people are presented with the unfamiliar, we tend
to look to similar things for comparison. While this can be useful to help make card evaluation easier, when thinking in terms of BCSM/WCSM, it’s
important to not exaggerate differences.

One example happened last year when Aether Adept got spoiled. Many people use Man-o’-War in their cubes because it provides a decent body with a useful
effect for a solid mana cost (and inherent card advantage), and it has rightfully been a staple in cubes for years because of that. However, when
looking at Aether Adept in terms of WCSM, people focused on the fact that it costed 1UU instead of 2U, noting that it was harder to cast and couldn’t
be splashed in decks. Was it worse than Man-o’-War? Without a doubt. But did the more difficult casting cost suddenly make it un-cubeworthy? Definitely

People (not just cube designers but people in general) were initially quick to dismiss the Rise of the Eldrazi levelers because of instant-speed
removal. For example, many people thought that Kargan Dragonlord was a terrible card because of the fact that someone could Staggershock or Path to
Exile it with the fourth level counter on the stack and because the Dragonlord didn’t really offer an efficient body when considering overall cost (RR
for a 2/2 is terrible! RRRRRR for a 4/4 flier is awful! I don’t even want to think of it as an 8/8), but that evaluation is disingenuous to how it
actually played out in both cube and Standard (where it has been mainly used as a cheap creature that can act as a mana sink to provide some
much-needed reach).

Thinking in terms of WCSM in this case makes people lose focus of the fact that Aether Adept is still a three-mana 2/2 that bounces a creature, which
is rock-solid in cube. Not including that card in a cube because of WCSM makes a cube worse.

Of course, thinking in terms of BCSM is also a bad idea—like coming up with dream scenarios where someone can go all-in on leveling a Dragonlord,
turning it into an 8/8, and Berserking it to win. Will that happen? Sure. Likely? Not really.

BCSM also tends to be used to justify cards that a cube designer wouldn’t necessarily want to include because those cards are part of a cycle. An
example would be something like Guided Passage, one of the few good U/R/G cards that people sometimes run because they want to have a card for all ten
three-color combinations in their cube. Someone may defend the use of the card by citing that it’s good in a U/R-splashing-green control deck, but
that’s not a very good comparison—would you run Guided Passage in your cube if it cost 2U or 1UU? This is blue, after all!

can also manifest when considering cards with drawbacks. It’s an important skill to be able to critically evaluate what drawback stops a card from
being cubeworthy vs. one that can be mitigated, and I find that people tend to not use aggressive cards in their cubes because they overemphasize and
fear the drawbacks on these cards.

·         I take damage from Jackal Pup and it’s just a 2/1? No way.

·         Juzam Djinn and Plague Sliver make me take damage? God no.

·         Time Spiral and Timetwister are terrible; my opponent gets to draw seven too.

These are actual examples of arguments I’ve heard used against these cards. Of course, you don’t want to use every card that provides more power than
toughness with a drawback as some are just awful (Mungha Wurm), but critical evaluation is key when evaluating cards in cube, and if there’s one lesson
that I’d like to teach in this article, it’s to look at cards critically.

I talk a lot about looking at things holistically, and it’s important to keep this view in mind when comparing cards—instead of thinking in terms of
extremes, it’s much more important to keep the overall range in mind and to evaluate where on that range the card’s overall effect lies.

For example, Tombstalker isn’t typically cast as a 6BB mana creature, since it’d then see very little play, and someone looking at it as an “eight-mana
flier” would be thinking incorrectly, since they’re in WCSM mode. However, it isn’t necessarily cast consistently for BB as it usually is in Legacy
either, since that’s its best case. It’s more about understanding the approximate average cost for it, and without playing the card, finding that
approximate value can be hard (which is where testing a card is useful). For Tombstalker, I’ve found that its average cost is somewhere around four
mana, making it a phenomenal creature.

This lesson is important when evaluating the power level of cards for your cube, as it’s very important to critically evaluate the overall power level of the cards that are being used, not just to think in terms of the extremes.

It is also very important to not fall for BCSM when comparing cards since each card in your cube is competing against everything that’s
not being used (which is a pretty huge pool of cards). Exaggeration is unfortunately a pretty big problem when people evaluate cards; sometimes they
fall prey to that same trap in cube. When considering a B/W card in my cube, I was debating between using Stillmoon Cavalier and Death Grasp. Someone
told me: “Stillmoon Cavalier is a three mana 2/1, and Death Grasp wins the game,” which not only doesn’t help in terms of critical evaluation but makes
it pretty clear that the person was gunning to include Death Grasp, since the person only noted the positive elements of Death Grasp and only the
negatives of Stillmoon Cavalier. A cube designer should form an overall view when comparing cards to put in his cube. Comparing two cards like Seal of
Fire and Firebolt are pretty easy—they’re both one-mana burn spells that deal two damage, with different characteristics that make one of them better
than the other. It’s important to be able to understanding their overall strengths and weaknesses to be able to critically and to be able to evaluate
which card provides a better overall effect, as this is a critical tool for cube designers. One that is difficult to master, but a critical one

I’ll wrap this up with an example from New Phyrexia, since talking about new cards is awesome, especially for cube. Thinking of Phyrexian
Canceller as a “four-mana 5/5 with a huge upside” isn’t really accurate in cube since mono-black decks are more the exception than the rule, since many
cube decks are 2+ colors. Since it’ll be run in multicolor decks, the Canceler will more likely be cast on turn 6 (at least, according to the calculations on the MTGS Cube Forum) than on turn 4, so critically
evaluating the card means thinking more in terms of its being a six-drop than in the BCSM mode of thinking of it as a four-drop. Will a six-mana
Phyrexian Canceller end up being good enough for cube? Likely not, but things like testing it out and understanding the overall range of its effect
will help to shape a more concrete image of how it plays in cube. (By the way, Karn has been really solid in testing. Even as just a Vindicate followed
by a Vindicate, he’s been solid, and that’s generally been on the low end of its utility.)

I’ll be mentioning the concept of BCSM in future articles, as I’ve found that it’s a very important thing to keep track of, but aside from that, I hope
that this has provided you with some lessons on overall card evaluation.

May all of your opening packs contain Sol Rings!

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