In a Vintage Cube Draft video recently a discussion emerged comparing Oracle of Mul Daya to Courser of Kruphix. Two influencers in the Magic community, Gaby Spartz and Luis Scott-Vargas, were addressing a Twitter thread from November 2019 where a poll had asked whether you’d take Oracle or Courser when drafting Green in the Magic Online Legacy Cube. I remembered nothing about the poll or the conversation—so after listening to the two streamers brush over the debate, I eagerly sought it out and combed over the original Twitter post.

As you can probably imagine the debate quickly spirals off of the original question, which was quite simple. If you’re drafting Green Ramp with nothing but some mana dorks and big, expensive top end, which do you take? Oracle of Mul Daya or Courser of Kruphix? The answer seems obvious—to me and most of the poll voters, at least—but the reasoning got lost as the discussion broke down into something else entirely. I guess that’s how it goes with Twitter.

A much larger question arose of how we understand and debate over cube theory, and that’s why I’m interested in the subject today. Here I will try to illuminate this underdeveloped aspect of Cube discourse.

Which card is better?

I find it bizarre that we’re attempting to compare the two cards so meaningfully. Oracle and Courser are two very different cards which share only one similar design function: they allow us to view the top card of our library and play lands from that zone. Apart from this, compare the strengths and weaknesses of each:

Oracle of Mul Daya is expensive and succeptible to any disruptive spell from the opponent, with a wildly inconsistent performance from game to game. It can be the most unbelievable and important card, or it will do stone nothing except give your opponent information on your next draw step. Oracle is capable of some truly game-breaking mana acceleration, and interacts favorably with library manipulation. Think Wooded Foothills or Sylvan Library.

When your Green decks want to ramp aggressively and win with giant monsters or spells, Oracle is the bridge that carries us to that end game. When creature interaction and countermagic are scarce, we’re confident we can untap with Oracle over and over again.

Whenever neither are true, however, Oracle of Mul Daya is a much riskier plan. When removal is plentiful you’ll rarely untap with it in play, and your big payoff spell is more likely to be countered or otherwise disrupted. But even more important is this: when Green doesn’t need to ramp, the card is no longer on plan.

Courser of Kruphix is cheaper, more resilient to removal, and offers us a predictably consistent play pattern. Courser provides slow, incremental card advantage on a fair, defensive body. They also interact favorably with library manipulation, but cannot accelerate your mana development. Courser is extremely polar against aggressive decks, and provides card advantage against the slower, more controling decks.

When your Green decks want to be multicolor midrange and win via card advantage and board presence, Courser of Kruphix will bridge you to the late game.

When your cube plays fair, Courser of Kruphix has better stock. When your cube plays unfair, Oracle of Mul Daya gets the vote.

Magic Online cubes, particularly at the Legacy and Vintage level, have skewed heavily in support of unfair strategies in recent years, even so far as to choke the very spells and strategies which naturally keep the nonsense in check. So, when the question asked relates to Legacy cube, and the pushed archetype for Green is ramp, the answer is Oracle by a mile.

What are your goals?

That, or this. This, or that. Which is better?

“Better” is such a meaningless evaluation without context. Often, and especially with regards to Cube, individual card evaluation is followed up with these tenuous or emotional justifications. History of a Card: “My cube plays with the best cards in the history of Magic!” Pet Cards: “I won a tournament with that Morphling!”  Campfire Cards: “Fallen Shinobi gameplay makes for great stories.” These are solid reasons to put cards in your cube. But they don’t have anything to do with the power level, strength, or whatever else you can use as a rubric to measure cards.

I find it hard to watch this solipsistic attitude pervade a charged debate over which Green card is supposedly better. There’s a cognitive dissonance going on here that is frighteningly devoid of nuance. Cubing a lot should (ideally) resolve itself in understanding the value of context. This, of course, also holds true in the widest possible application, too. Context matters: in cube, in constructed, and everywhere in Magic.

So go ahead, call me Cube Snooty. But if you come at me with “roast my cube!” or whatever, I’m going to start by asking you what your goals are. And when I say goals, I mean what defines the play experience, the environment that you’ve envisioned. There is no vacuum that exists wherein one card is simply better than another, where one card is more or less fun. I guess that’s not exactly true either, but I don’t find it interesting to imagine a format where Black Lotus isn’t all that powerful.

Successful cubes are usually then defined by a keen understanding of one’s own goals; the better defined the experience you want is, the more confident you’ll be communicating it to others, and receiving feedback on it too. Once you know what you want out of your cube, you can spend a lifetime tinkering with it. It’s so rewarding for us cube designers to test and refine our cubes, inching ever closer to that holy grail of acheiving ones ideal format.

Well defined goals will create context, which will then influence your individual card choices. Want high variance, low agency gameplay? Okay! Sounds to me like you’re a gambler. Want low variance, high agency gameplay? Cool. Maybe we should start by cutting that Natural Order.

This inflection point on goal setting is monumental to understanding what, exactly, defines fun for both you and your playgroup. So the next time someone asks you which card is better, try to understand why they’re asking you, and the environment from which you’re being asked. Often we are coming from an entirely different perspecitve, based on our work with our own cubes. Speaking universally about a card might help somewhat, but applying yourself to the environment in question is an imperative. The sooner we can learn that, the better.

This is likely an overwrought way to deliver a simple concept. C’est la vie.

But what about Oracle and Courser?

Okay, okay.

Personally, i’m a bigger fan of Courser of Kruphix. I respect Oracle of Mul Daya, and I think the card has its place, but the card is beginning to show its age. Spending four mana for an inconsistent and fragile bit of ramp that barely attacks or blocks doesn’t do it for me anymore. My Green ramp decks usually have 15-ish lands, too, which even further diminishes the chance you’ll spike multiple lands off the top.

The variance inherent to Oracle is wildly appealing to some Magic players. There’s a perception that cube is where you go to “do the broken stuff”—perhaps this feeling is accompanied by an expectation for high variance gameplay. Over the years i’ve grown tired of this style of cubing. While I love Magic and will always cube when it’s online, I get bored of playing formats with low agency.

Cube is not at its best when we’re all busy building Rube Goldberg machines. Oracle of Mul Daya is the right pick for Legacy cube, but I’d rather play cubes where Courser of Kruphix is the right pick.

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