If you missed the previous Pauper Cube updates last year, here are the last five:
- Gatecrash Pauper Cube Update
- Dragon's Maze Pauper Cube Update
- Modern Masters Pauper Cube Update
- Magic 2014 Pauper Cube Update
- Theros Pauper Cube Update
The evolution of the Pauper Cube last year was a thing of beauty. Archetypes were tightened, the mana base for multicolored decks became stable, and the feedback was more diversified. Like this:
@the_stybs I see the problem. Didn't show up in my document search, because it was misspelled "omespeaker." Sorry to bother you. :)— Garrett Alvord (@gartweasley) February 18, 2014
Whoops! Typos happen, and are easily fixed, but I meant feedback like this:
@the_stybs my power cube is shiny because of them! I love the discount system!— Michael Tims (@Human_Fighter) February 14, 2014
Well, yeah. Getting the coolest version of cards for my Cube is a combination of the “best” foil versions I can get (generally through CoolStuffInc.com) and altered versions courtesy of Eric Klug of Klug Alters. But I meant feedback:
@OmegasSquared I'm cutting two mediocre equips: try Fleetfoot Boots for now, though I dislike proxies and cube adds before playing a set.— Adam Styborski (@the_stybs) February 14, 2014
Yeah, Conspiracy is a real, multiplayer Draft set coming this summer. I can't wait to see more commons like Cogwork Librarian either. But I mean Pauper Cube feedback, like this:
@the_stybs Mana Tithe was a consistent dud, but Blightning and Armadillo Cloak were HUGE winners. Even the first time drafters had a blast.— Dustin (@DrDrase) January 18, 2014
Hearing how others find the same cards dominating or disappointing is key to evolving any Cube. My goal is, as it’s always been, is to include the most powerful cards available at common while crafting Drafts that are a blast to play.
As before, the focus of this update was to reinforce existing archetypes, adjust inclusions based on playability feedback, and finally (spoiler alert!) add bestow to the mix.
A summary table is available at the end of the article, as well as in the Change Log of the Pauper Cube GoogleDoc.
Let's talk about bestow. It's a great mechanic for Limited, particularly when it's on creatures with cheap costs to do so. Nyxborn Shieldmate and Hopeful Eidolon are at the lowest common bestow costs for white, but the bodies they bring to the battlefield are tiny. In a Limited format overflowing with bestow, a 1/1 with lifelink can be buffed up again, and a 1/2 can be made much more impressive. Neither Theros nor Born of the Gods is filled with instant removal.
The Pauper Cube doesn't give you many ways to beef up small fries. Every creature is typically powerful enough in its own right, standing on merits that aren't conditional. For bestow, I’m choosing creatures that are palatable on-curve in creature mode and are useful when they fall off their targets when bestowed.
This is the type of bestow I meant above. While a 2/2 with vigilance isn't exciting, it is acceptable if you need a body for 3 mana. The bestow cost of isn't awful, and as a late-game draw, it helps tip an aggressive deck over the top.
One of the issues I've seen pop up in games is that they can go longer than expected. Without many rare- and uncommon-level Limited bombs to work with, drawing the first way to go over the top becomes the deciding factor. Mana Tithe has been a sore spot in my mind since, unlike blue and U/B decks with ways to filter useless spells away, it sits in your hand as a blank far more than desired. Observant Alseid is the opposite as the game drags on.
I like attacking for 2. One of the archetypes that could use a little push is R/W Tokens. Loyal Pegasus is exactly the kind of early drop that loves a swarm strategy, and alongside flying or haste creatures, it's clear it will get in quickly.
Icatian Javelineers isn't a bad 1-drop, but its ability to kill things was minimal, and attacking was generally futile. Bringing an aggressive 1-drop instead feels right.
Continuing the trend in bestow is one of the scariest options from Theros. Creating a beefy flyer out of a pipsqueak will floor opponents in my Cube as well. Replacing Stormbound Geist, which couldn't block most creatures and rarely was able to grow into its 3/3 potential, won't be missed.
With a reasonable bestow cost for a body that's almost Nyxborn Shieldmate and Nyxborn Eidolon stapled together, this common is already making waves in Born of the Gods Limited. And after keeping count of “Blowout/Not Blowout” when casting Wormfang Drake, the coin toss for a blowout it ended up being was too much.
I like combat tricks and surprising aggressive options. Crypsis is a unique ability, particularly to appear at common and in blue. While there are some great upsides to Hands of Binding, I want to encourage blue decks to be more creative in their combat steps after receiving another bump in bounce spells with the last update.
Deathtouch is a very nice feature for a creature in the Pauper Cube. With fatties like Imperiosaur running around, being able to bestow a small fry into a dinosaur slayer makes perfect sense. Shadow Alley Denizen has been underperforming, so the swap here to beef up control and grinding decks makes sense.
I like giving aggressive decks creatures they want. A combination of 2/1 for 2 mana and a way to beef up something smaller in the late game is exactly the type of tool B/R and W/B Aggro want. Midnight Recovery is a fine card, and when it works, it’s backbreaking, but I want to see how continuing to beef up aggressive options bears out for black.
I didn't forget about controlling decks, however. The color with Pestilence is primed for using Gary effectively, and the ability to flicker or bounce it with white or blue is even more devastating here. Nobody used Street Wraith as I had imagined (reducing the deck to an effective thirty-nine cards), but I think there will be plenty of players excited to cast this instead.
I love Fall of the Hammer. It's simple and powerful, it combines well with both black (deathtouch) and green (fatties), it’s cheap, and it’s an instant. But red isn't hurting for creature removal, as it’s already packed with Lightning Bolt and its myriad of weaker variants. I want to put it into the Cube, but I just don't see where it fits and what it adds aside from a burn spell that's conditional and can't go for the dome.
There are many spells at common in red that can deal damage across the battlefield. This one hits only creatures your opponent controls, including those with flying, and it gives you scry on top of it all. While I don't see a need to add it to the Cube just yet, I'm keeping a copy in reserve. It's a good card if tokens begin ruling the roost.
First strike is great in a Cube filled with combat, and on a 2/2 body, it's big enough to matter. Throwing this on top of something else through bestow makes a creature that will have a tough time being blocked by almost everything else available. While Scorchwalker make for some exciting plays, giving red nonburn reach for the late game felt right.
Dawntreader Elk has almost never been popped for a basic land. Leafcrown Dryad feels like a strict upgrade in the 2/2-for-2 category with a reasonable bestow cost tacked on. I'm looking forward to another Spider to prey upon the flying decks.
Here’s another aggressive creature with another fair bestow cost. Unlike Trusted Forcemage, Nyxborn Wolf won't lead to two-for-ones, and it can buff a small fry much more, though the Forcemage is on standby if it needs to come back.
While black has an issue with too many double-color casting costs, green doesn't. I want to see how Gray Merchant of Asphodel performs before replacing one of the guaranteed Giant Growth effects with a conditional one that has a bigger upside.
As much as I like the “evasion” built in to Viridian Emissary, giving green a better 2-drop to pressure with (and possibly set up a future Aspect of Hydra addition) feels like the right call. It also makes the Rampant Growth spells more desirable for the ramp and multicolored decks without bogging decks down with redundant ways to fetch a basic land.
Tribute may be a form of the maligned “punisher” mechanic, but here, it provides a unique tool: If an opponent pays tribute, you can assume a removal spell; if an opponent doesn't, you can assume he or she doesn't have one. Gaining life is a great edge against aggro, and burn decks will be loath to give you either.
I've rarely seen Kitesail make someone's deck, and Fleetfeather Sandals was a minor upgrade to an unused Equipment. I've cut both from the Cube, and I have my eyes on the cycling land cycle from Urza's Saga as another option to trim the Cube down of unused cards.
I don't foresee any major shifts with these changes, but the potential for even better bestow options to come with Journey into Nyx later this Spring is something that should excite any Pauper lover. Of course, if something should change, you'll see it first on the Change Log and Spoiler tabs of my Pauper Cube spreadsheet for the update before the article hits.