If you missed previous Pauper Cube updates, here are the last eleven:
- 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
- Fate Reforged Pauper Cube Update (with Alex Ullman)
- Dragons of Tarkir Cube Update
Maybe some update I’ll stop listing them all, but I’m kind of interested in seeing how far this goes.
As always, the Change Log tab is where you can see what’s been in and out of the Cube recently. If you took a look recently, you’ll notice a sweeping set of changes that beg for explanation. My aim is to provide that today as efficiently as possible.
Let’s get started.
My Cube’s first release was built to mimic powered and rare Cubes: Include the most powerful cards at common in Magic. Over time, I came to appreciate the development aspect of building a Cube: tweaking inclusions to encourage certain types of play, removing cards to balance out the power and variety of best decks, and tuning themes and synergies to ensure all players have chances at fun they personally enjoy.
I moved from the “Cube” to “custom-Draft-set” side of the world.
That what this massive update is about: It isn’t that Modern Masters (2015 Edition) or Magic Origins were particularly powerful at changing my Cube—though there’s plenty from both that matter here—but I needed to catch up and truly develop some aspects of it.
I’ll highlight cards and cover most of the change, but broadly here’s what happened:
- Hexproof — Green and white, but also some blue, this was gutted entirely. The archetype was powerful, but polarizing, and unpleasant for most players.
- Tokens have expanded into G/W. Replacing hexproof as a theme in one sense, the constant push and support for tokens in G/W in sets released by Wizards made it a natural extension given the positives of tokens in R/W.
- B/G is graveyard focused, but changed. Rather than create repetitive game states with recursive recursion (see Disturbed Burial and Grim Harvest), powerful, but limited, recursion is supplanted by more delve options and some self-mill tools.
- There is broad trimming from across the colors. Some redundancy and unexciting options were removed.
- There were modest bumps in colorless choices. Artifacts that fill out curves and can help smooth things when Drafts go bad were added. None of the options are exciting alone, but each serves a role in making play better.
- Card-draw skewed back into blue, but it was trimmed to force choices. Cards like Exclude always provided a rich-get-richer feel. Now it’s either counter a spell or develop your hand or battlefield.
- Burn is pushed down. Cards like Brimstone Volley kill players without any real work involved. “The Burn Deck” may slowly become less powerful, as red is next on the development block.
Kytheon's Tactics and Suppression Bonds — With tokens expanding to white, it made sense to increase the common Overrun count. Kytheon's Tactics is a powerful way to both dish out damage and keep troops home for the counterattack. It’s a great card to catch up against an opponent. Suppression Bonds is literally Faith's Fetters without the life-gain. It’s still strong, and it’s one of the few ways to shut down Equipment in the Cube.
Misthoof Kirin — Misthoof Kirin is a solid morph with play as a not-morph. Vigilance is powerful with flying. Making way for the three cards above are Wingsteed Rider, Ethereal Armor, and Observant Alseid—all parts of the hexproof package. Dromoka Warrior, Oreskos Swiftclaw, and War Falcon left for feeling redundant in a lot of scenarios.
Topan Freeblade — I’m not sure how to feel about renown. It’s a fine mechanic, though my Cube has more instants that kill creatures and bounce spells, making renown less exciting. It punishes slow plays and mana screw for opponents of it. White has plenty of strong 2-drops, but I’m keeping the Freeblade close by. Renown, and otherwise encouraging attacking, is awesome.
Separatist Voidmage and Artificer's Epiphany — Another Man-o'-War? Another instant that draws cards at common? Both of these are strong and will make blue feel even more consistent and cohesive. Benthic Giant and Stealer of Secrets are easy cuts to make room.
Exclude and Condescend — Let’s talk about the most controversial cuts this round. Exclude and Condescend are fan favorites for Island lovers. These cards are good, and there’s nothing wrong with them, per se. My goal with these changes is to bring into alignment the separation between “cards that draw cards” and “cards that provide permanent value.” There’s a ton of blue bounce and other ways for blue to mitigate a creature; and Counterspell is still in the Cube with other efficient answers. But these two are the leaders in feel-bads: “You suck for a turn while I pull further ahead.” And I’d like to try something different. If you recall, Repulse was cut a long time ago, and there’re still plenty of ways to bounce creatures. I you want cards, cast something that draws them—that’s the new world.
This is among the largest updates for black for the Cube. Many of these changes were meant to give black a different feel and complement, rather than duplicate, some of what blue does.
Morgue Theft, Font of Return vs. Grim Harvest, Disturbed Burial — Black gets to recur things. That’s one of the most unique and powerful things about the color. Doing it iteratively for value, effectively locking an opponent out of any chance to catch up, isn’t healthy or fun. Grim Harvest and Disturbed Burial both recur easily. Morgue Theft and Font of Return return a lot, too, but then they’re done. In games in which it only takes one recursion to earn the win, there’s no change. Otherwise, setting up and using recursion is more strategic than before.
Ghastly Demise, Gurmag Angler, Cadaver Imp vs. Sign in Blood, Read the Bones — This is another controversial change. Black’s draw spells have always been from black’s least interesting piece of the color pie: paying life for something other colors than do. Making mana, drawing cards, and protecting creatures can all be done in mono-black with a little bit a life. I wanted to make blue’s card-draw more attractive and put black’s value firmly in the graveyard. Both Gurmag Angler and Cadaver Imp care about what’s dead, and I think that will lead to some tension as games go on. Black still wins attrition, which is different from blue’s tempo-oriented control with bounce
It isn’t in this update, but it’s time to rethink how red burn should be included in the Cube. There is so much redundancy that burning opponents out is possible. I like burn as a reach tool to support aggressive red decks and their fragile creatures, but too much burn makes it so a solitary red drafter can get away with murder. Expect red to get a close look in the future.
Ghirapur Gearcrafter, Firefiend Elemental — Ghirapur Gearcrafter should be familiar to anyone who liked white in Fate Reforged Limited. Now it’s red, and it’s still very good. Firefiend Elemental is similar to how I used Crusher Zendikon: a 4-drop with haste. I’m excited how these two will do.
Skitter of Lizards, Brimstone Volley, Ill-Tempered Cyclops — The Cyclops was rarely played, and Skitter of Lizards was often too difficult to use effectively. Brimstone Volley, however, is my first shake at moving burn down a notch. Game-ending, 3-mana burn spells should be a closer game than 25% of your starting life total.
Green was arguably the least interesting color in the Cube—a lot of creatures, all efficient, and just attack! Now I’m purposefully adding interesting effects and directions to go with green, mostly to harmonize with black for caring about the graveyard. It’s a start, and it will be a long process. Including more noncreature spells is a definite goal.
Nest Invader, Scion of the Wild, Kozilek's Predator, Scatter the Seeds — These are token cards, and they play up what green can do with white or red. Making easy room are the cut hexproof cards like Gladecover Scout, Primal Huntbeast, and others.
Rhox Maulers, Hooting Mandrills vs. Arrogant Wurm, Charging Rhino — Maulers and Mandrills will hit opponents hard. Trample in particular on Rhox Maulers makes it a great threat. Arrogant Wurm was corner-case at best, and Charging Rhino wasn’t very interesting.
Reclaim, Evolution Charm vs. Feral Invocation, Groundswell — Getting green to care about things other than just attacking with creatures is tough. Both Reclaim and Evolution Charm have obvious graveyard uses, though the Jump aspect of the Charm is hilarious when timed well. Feral Invocation and Groundswell are just laying beats, and there are plenty of others still in the Cube to pump with.
Claws of Wirewood, Leafcrown Dryad, Slaughterhorn — These were all interesting-yet-underused cards. Claws of Wirewood in particular was fascinating in R/G decks packed with burn! (These all may come back.)
Multicolored and Artifact
Travel Preparations, Sigil Blessing vs. Shield of the Oversoul, Armadillo Cloak — Armadillo Cloak is another sacred cow that was led to slaughter. Both it and Shield of the Oversoul were awesome clutch cards in hexproof decks. Now they’re just obnoxious in their own right. Both Sigil Blessing and Travel Preparations push G/W tokens to the top of the list titled “Aha! I should draft that!” for the color pair, and both will prove just as formidable as the leaving counterparts.
Grisly Salvage — B/G as a support card for stocking the graveyard? Okay.
Sphere of the Suns — This Modern Masters (2015 Edition) gem was a downshifted-from-uncommon tool of Constructed decks in Scars of Mirrodin Standard. Thanks for making another 2-mana ramp spell common!
Bonded Construct, Runed Servitor, Cathodion, Guardian Automaton — I wanted to include more oh-shit buttons for drafters. None of these cards—Bonded Construct (great with tokens), Runed Servitor, Cathodion, or Guardian Automaton—are super-exciting, though each has its uses in different decks. These just round out options that will be available late when people change colors or have a Draft go sideways.
There aren’t any new common lands, though the foil Evolving Wilds by Steve Belledin is really sweet. (I love Steve Belledin’s work.)
Refining a Cube’s experience—draft and play—is not easy. Professional developers spend hours upon hours working on Magic sets. I have considerably less to work with. But that’s why you’re so important: Feedback, thoughts, questions, and ideas about the Pauper Cube gives me things to consider and look at closely. Strong feedback on hexproof and B/G drove this update: I look forward to hearing more in time for the next.
And, with any luck, I’ll have some drafts at PAX Prime later this year to help me show off those archetypes and sample deck lists you’re after. I haven’t forgotten, friends.
See you when we Battle for Zendikar!