If you missed previous Pauper Cube updates, here are the last ten:
- Gatecrash Pauper Cube Update
- Dragon's Maze Pauper Cube Update
- Modern Masters Pauper Cube Update
- Magic 2014 Pauper Cube Update
- Theros Pauper Cube Update
- Born of the Gods Pauper Cube Update
- Journey into Nyx Pauper Cube Update
- Conspiracy and Vintage Masters Pauper Cube Update
- Magic 2015 Pauper Cube Update
- Khans of Tarkir Pauper Cube Update
As always, the Change Log tab is where you can see what’s been in and out of the Cube recently. The Khans of Tarkir update was a push to realize the shift to “best gameplay first,” and that theme continues with my updates. As usual, I will be as brief as possible.
Adding to this update is Pauper guru and associate editor Alex Ullman. Here’s some info on the awesome guy:
Alex is my go-to guy and confidant for Pauper. He maintains his own list Pauper Cube list, and our philosophies vary. Instead of putting two updates out, we joined forces to make one supersized Pauper Cube discussion.
Let’s get started.
Mardu Hordechief was an easy addition with the last update. Sandsteppe Outcast is similar is function—generate two bodies from one card—but this one requires even less setup: Just play the card. A 2/1 is big enough to fight and trade, and a 1/1 flying is exactly the kind of threat a deck playing (spoiler alert) War Flare wants.
Alex: Sandsteppe Outcast is quite a card. The ability to be either a 3/2 on curve or a 2/1 and a 1/1 flyer is huge, and the presence of the +1/+1 counter plays nicely with the addition of Ainok Bond-Kin in my Khans of Tarkir update. The Outcast also plays into white’s ability to go wide in certain decks, playing up one aspect of Boros. Additionally, Harsh Sustenance will be making it to the big leagues in this update, giving Orzhov a strong backup plan if the grind does not work out.
Sandsteppe Outcast will be earning its spot at the expense of Caravan Escort. While level up is a wonderful mana sink, white decks have been moving away from this card for quite some time. Caravan Escort did serious work in its day, and it will be fondly remembered.
Abzan Skycaptain. The idea of rolling one creature—and evasive threat at that—into upsizing another is attractive. But 4 mana for a 2/2 flying isn’t efficient enough alone, and requiring another creature for the bolster to benefit is situational. I’m not impressed enough for the potential upside to accept the more likely downside.
Alex: If you’ve followed my adventures in the Commander format, you know how much I love sacrificing for fun and profit. That being said, this card is so far below the curve in my Cube it can’t make the cut. Compare this to Burrenton Bombardier, which gives the option of a 2/2 flyer at Wind Drake rate or instant-speed counters on whatever. I am certain bolster is going to be fun to play in Fate Reforged/Khans of Tarkir Limited, but the bar is high, and this Bird smacked into the power lines.
Temple Acolyte and need a second, or if you want a foil version to use instead, Arashin Cleric is for you. Enjoy!
Alex: What the Stybs said.
Kolaghan, the Storm's Fury being nailed by removal while face down without anything I could do to a Lightform netting a Pine Walker. The upside can be strong, but a generic 2/2 isn’t exciting for the Cube. Paying going rate for it doesn’t help.
Alex: I love morph and the gameplay opportunities it provides. So many of the creatures in my Cube hold their spots due their to enters-the-battlefield triggers. Manifest takes that away and replaces it with a 2/2. This is simply not good enough.
Aven Surveyor is everything that blue wants in my Cube. The costs are fair for either option, and the flexibility to have a bigger threat when you’re in command puts this card leaps above others. Replacing Nyxborn Triton feels a little bad—I really like the Triton—but for the same amount of mana, Aven Surveyor is amazing.
Alex: Now this is quite the card. Mist Raven is a huge tempo swing and a reasonable threat. Aven Surveyor is either a slower Mist Raven or a reasonable flying clock. Let’s be real—it’s going to be Mist Raven a lot of the time, and that is perfectly fine. Aven Surveyor will be replacing Voidwielder in my Cube since it has a similar effect. However, Voidwielder is much better at gumming up the ground, and I want blue to be somewhat vulnerable in the creatures. Its 3 toughness is less than 4, so it’s time for the Return to Ravnica Wizard to take a walk.
Phantom Monster is a beautiful card in my Cube. The dark inking and look of a Beta card makes it stand out from the modern frames and foils that surround it. However, for the same mana cost, Lotus Path Djinn offers some interesting applications and support for a spell-laden tempo deck. We’ll see if this shift sticks.
Alex: Prowess needs a critical mass of cards with the ability to function optimally. Given the nature of my Cube, it will be incredibly difficult for such a confluence to occur. Therefore, these cards are riding the pine.
Hands of Binding hasn’t been the most exciting card. Drawing three instead should suffice.
Treasure Cruise has elevated itself as a premier way to draw cards in every format it’s still legal in. Petals of Insight can theoretically dig for something specific over several turns, but gaining three cards for close to 1 mana is just better.
Alex: I have been eyeing Treasure Cruise for a while and have a feeling it might get a nod in a future update. Right now, I am very happy with how blue’s card-draw is working, and I do not want to give the color access to one of the stronger cards printed in recent years.
Whirlpool Whelm has a slight potential upside over Voyage's End. This is just a texture change.
Sultai Skullkeeper is a second effective Screeching Skaab, which begs the question, “When will a self-mill theme make the Cube?” Khans of Tarkir and Fate Reforged added fuel with delve; recent sets have begun to use more put-some-cards-into-your-graveyard effects as drawbacks and bonuses on creatures (see Necromancer's Assistant, Satyr Wayfinder). I haven’t been able to fight through the work to see if refitting some Sultai synergy makes sense yet, but it’s still on my radar.
Whisk Away since it’s an instant. While it lacks the two-for-one bounce punch of Command of Unsummoning, putting a creature on top of a library can lock away serious tempo. It’s an interesting card for Cubes looking to diversify from strictly bouncing creatures.
Alex: I am looking forward to casting this card and causing all sorts of problems. Blue is always on the lookout for variety in its spells, and while this resembles bounce, it is slightly different. It also allows me to cut Nyxborn Triton and skew blue toward more spells, which is one of my overarching goals in the Cube.
Blinding Beam is quite a card, and being able to reduce the cost of this instant thanks to delve makes it rather alluring. If Azorius- and Simic-flavored tempo decks need a boost, this card is on the radar.
Black left me underwhelmed at common in Fate Reforged. Everything from uninspired dash creatures to too-expensive-to-compete-with-history removal was blasé. I’m looking forward to what the next set holds.
Goblin Heelcutter, there’s no marginal benefit to trying to dash Alesha's Vanguard out a turn early or to keep it off the battlefield on an opponent’s turn. Hill Giant slamming in a turn early or unexpectedly makes sense when there isn’t a volume of burn around to compete with. This is arguably the “best” black common with dash.
And in a flavor fail, Alesha, Who Smiles at Death can’t even buy her own vanguard back. Just. Wow.
Gurmag Angler is a nice body for a what is probably a fine price if there’s a self-mill theme in black. It’s on my shortlist to review when I tackle that potential in the future.
Hooded Assassin as a 2/3 for 3 mana is decidedly unimpressive for my Cube. Its other ability to kill a creature that was already dealt damage requires some setup. The best-case scenario is nailing massive fatties that are tough for small fries to kill, but black has plenty of ways to kill them without any setup. I’m not impressed.
Sultai Emissary feels similar to Butcher Ghoul, but with the added randomness of the top card of your library involved. Butcher Ghoul is a fine card, but it’s not a must-have-two type. Maybe playing more Fate Reforged will change my opinion of manifest.
Alex: I don’t have much to say here except I agree with the Stybs. I want to like Sultai Emissary, but I feel that manifest is a net negative in my Cube. One card that has piqued my interest is Ancestral Vengeance. Totem-Guide Hartebeest is quite the card in my Cube, and Heliod's Pilgrim may find a home in the sleeves. If that ever happens, I could see wanting to run this way to steal a single power.
Mardu Scout is going to pull the pants down on some combat math and provide a great body for aggressive red decks. Inferno Fist has been a cute experience, but the new Scout is going to do so much more work.
Alex: I want to like this card, but I am having trouble getting over the fragile body and heavy mana investment. While it plays nicely into red’s can’t-block-me theme, I’m not sure I want to run a non-trampling Spark Elemental. However, I will be giving it a chance over Torch Fiend for the time being. I am not sure this is the best swap (Keldon Marauders may be better), but this is where I am now.
Grotag Thrasher, Goblin Heelcutter delivered standout performances throughout prerelease events. Functioning as both a “blocker remover” and Lightning Bolt if an opponent is trying to stabilize, dash actually enhances what the Heelcutter can do since it dodges sorcery-speed removal and can stay hidden until the right time.
Spearpoint Oread didn’t find the home I wanted it to see, and I can’t imagine the Heelcutter underperforming in its stead.
Alex: Much like Adam, I am very excited about the Heelcutter, and exactly like Adam, I will be cutting Spearpoint Oread for this card.
Kruin Striker is a brew-favorite of red Human token decks during Avacyn Restored’s time in Standard. With so many ways to make tokens, the odds that the Striker will have a hard-hitting turn seem fair. Generator Servant hasn’t made the splash I hoped, so a different 2 mana 2/1 might work better.
Flame Slash isn’t coming back to a Standard set anytime soon.
Collateral Damage plays nice with tokens, but Shard Volley is a surefire way to add another Lightning Bolt to the Cube. With burn options at a sweet spot so far, I’m just quietly adding a foil of Collateral Damage to my reserve binders of options.
Yes, binders in the plural.
Lightning Shrieker feels like Lava Axe, except it’s blockable and counterable with instant-speed removal. I want to like this Dragon, but I just don’t see it doing anything amazing here.
Pyrotechnics was a common in Classic Sixth Edition. If you don’t want to hunt down the sexy Seventh Edition foil, here’s an easy alternative.
Green was another disappointing color for my Cube in this set. However, there are some interesting things to consider if you want some variety.
Adam: Green has plenty of powerful mana-fixing at common throughout history. Ainok Guide’s choice between a 2/2 or drawing a land next is interesting, but it’s outshined by historical options such as Civic Wayfinder and Borderland Ranger.
Alex: This card just seems so bad. Sure, a 2/2 is a nice body, but would it have been too strong to let the card go into your hand a la Sylvan Ranger? Green loves card advantage even if it just draws lands, and this guy fails at that—bad dog, very bad dog.
Ambush Krotiq is a 5/5 with trample for 6 mana. It’s a fine card on the curve, though faster-to-the-battlefield threats like Imperiosaur and Blastoderm keep it out. The bonus ability of returning a creature you control to your hand synergizes well with blue’s bevy of bouncers, such as the new Aven Surveyor, but as a requirement, it gives it obvious downsides.
Trained Armodon or Centaur Courser, this is another wake-up call for you. Frontier Mastodon is a rich-get-richer (win-more) card, but on the curve, it’s fine. Not my cup of tea, but bigger Cube might like this over other options.
Multicolored and Artifact
Cunning Strike is a virtual free two-for-one in a color pair that leans on burn to close out games. “Draw a card,” is an incredible line of text on a removal spell. Replacing Goblin Electromancer, which did little other than be traded away before it could put in any work discounting spells, makes sense here—anything it could kill Cunning Strike will as well.
Alex: Sign me up. While expensive, this card deals 4 damage and replaces itself. I am very pleased with the way this card looks and plays, and it will be getting the nod over the fine, but unspectacular Crackling Triton. Again, this is part of an effort to give blue some vulnerability on the ground.
Grim Contest isn’t as exciting as I’d normally want a removal spell to be, it is both an instant and more useful than Grisly Salvage given what B/G can do. With so many small X/1 and X/2 creatures, Grim Contest will be surprising utility that won’t be snapped up by other decks or end up in the sideboard.
Harsh Sustenance. While W/B isn’t “the token deck,” there are good odds white token-makers will end up populating a W/B deck. Executioner's Swing is a reactive spell that commits to a creature dealing damage. Harsh Sustenance may end up being a “weaker” removal spell in the average game, and an instant Drain Life effect will beef up W/B’s life-gain theme (thanks, extort!) and support a more aggressive deck.
Alex: Orzhov already has a beatdown deck in my Cube, and Harsh Sustenance provides solid finisher. This also will turn on all the token cards in white and black for Orzhov and make going wide a viable option outside of Boros. Shrieking Grotesque is the weakest of the remaining W/B spells, so it ends up on the sidelines. If removal proves too strong after this update, Unmake might trade places with the Gargoyle in the future.
War Flare is like I traveled back in time to tell the designers and developers of Fate Reforged what a R/W deck wants most: another Trumpet Blast effect. Unlike the red and white versions in the Cube already, War Flare will always end up where it belongs. Goblin Legionnaire had a great run, but it was much more powerful when combat damage used the stack. War Flare will always hit harder.
Alex: I have been hesitant to include too many of these cards in my Cube. However, during a solo build exercise, I looked over a theoretical Boros deck and saw it was basically begging for this card. And lo, the Wizards answered. While I am not going crazy with them just yet, I could absolutely see returning Dynacharge to the fold. Cerodon Yearling takes a time out since it is the least impressive of all the Boros beaters.
Deadshot Minotaur. Even I wasn’t particularly enthused, though the potential two-for-one built into its enters-the-battlefield ability and cycling meant it was never an outright dead card. One foil I hadn’t picked up and kept forgetting about was Colossal Might. The cheap, powerful instant has its home in many common/uncommon Cubes and gives R/G an aggressive tool. With the sprinkling of hexproof in green, I anticipate Colossal Might being a blowout before too long.
Ethereal Ambush might make its way into the Cube, but I’m waiting for more play with manifest to sort it out. An end-of-turn Ambush into turning Charging Rhino or bigger face up feels like a potential win to me.
I can confirm that a foil Fate Reforged Tranquil Cove replaces a common, not the fixed nonbasic land, in packs, so they shouldn’t be too tough to pick up if you like the newer art showing an older Tarkir more.
I can say I’m happy with the big changes that came last update. Aggressive decks can take advantage of the tempo loss dual lands provide, but value decks enjoy gaining like quite a bit. It’s a nice balance that I didn’t expect.
I’m excited for the new card-drawing spells and support for R/W tokens as well as the new variety of enemy-colored commons. Let’s just hope Dragons of Tarkir has common Dragons worth playing.
Alex: I am very happy with how my Cube has been playing recently, and I am looking forward to taking the new version for a spin. I may do a mid-set update with the cards that I spoke about here and tweak to make sure everything is running smoothly. I am also considering growing the Cube, if only to make six-person Sealed Draft a thing, but I am not sure about that just yet. In the interim, I may try it out with thirty cards in the initial Sealed and then fourteen-card packs there on out. I’ll let you know how it goes.
And as always, here is the updated list to my Cube. Happy drafting!