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Born of the Gods - A Herculean Cube Update

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When we last left our intrepid Pauper Cube, it was in need of help. The colors were out of balance, and while there was archetype residue, it was the unintended consequence of me running certain cards rather than planning out different deck options for players. I set out to make some changes and loosely defined what I wanted the colors to be. It just so happens that the start of this endeavor coincides with the release of Born of the Gods, so now is as good as time as any to make a sweeping update.

This is the largest update I have done on record in recent memory. Part of the size comes from growing each color by a card to 66, but that only did so much. Overall, the Cube only grew by eight cards (that doesn’t seem like a ton), but forty cards left the Cube. Four dozen new cards means a drastic change. Normally, I would not make such a sweeping change, but considering that I want to try to steer the Cube in multiple different directions, I felt that changing this many cards was an acceptable first step. In a sense, I wanted to create an entirely different drafting experience with a similar core, and these alterations were a necessary first step.

Nyxborn Rollicker
As a review, here are the directions I want to take each color:

  • White – Focus on smaller creatures and combat; make removal more combat-oriented.
  • Blue – Was in a good spot, but it should focus on less aggressive creatures.
  • Black – Push the curve higher; tweak removal; add more devotion.
  • Red – Skew toward cheaper cards; find nonburn spells.
  • Green – Add more of the same.

Cards were also added with an eye toward roles in particular Draft archetypes.

Before going into the different cards, I want to touch on bestow. My stance on bestow has been made public on this site before by our fearless leader. In brief, I am a fan and have added every possible bestow creature to the Cube for the time being. My reasoning behind this is that they provide so many options. Not only are they all reasonable creatures at the mana costs, they also provide sinks for mana later in the game and change the combat dynamic when they come down as Auras. They also come with some built-in card advantage in that when the bestowed-upon creatures die, they leave reasonable bodies behind. Giving all the colors access to some creature-based card advantage fulfills multiple roles, from preventing the dominance of removal-dot-deck to letting decks light on actual card-draw keep up. While I can’t say with any certainty that Nyxborn Rollicker will stay in the Cube forever, I am happy with it there right now. I would love to know what you all think of bestow and its role in a Draft environment with less support than Theros Draft, so let me know if you think I’m a little too touched by the Gods.

On to the changes. Proceeding in Chromanticore order:

White

In Out
War Falcon Aven Squire
Nyxborn Shieldmate Suture Priest
Expendable Troops Recumbent Bliss
Akroan Skyguard Charging Griffin
Leonin Skyhunter Silverclaw Griffin
Wingsteed Rider Iona's Judgment
Rebuke Angelic Edict
Empyrial Armor

Let’s talk about what’s leaving. Angelic Edict and Iona's Judgment were solid removal spells, but they did not play into white’s role as the combat color. Instead, they were expensive, no-holds-barred creature kill. As I am reimagining the Cube, I wanted to push these cards out of white to make combat matter more. Recumbent Bliss was not nearly as offensive, but it led to a ton of bookkeeping and drawn-out games. The Pacifism variant created more headaches than fun, so it earned itself a place on the bench. Aven Squire runs counter to some of white’s guilded strategies of swarm attacks while the others creatures lost their slots to cards that fit certain roles.

As for the Additions

War Falcon
War Falcon is a card I have always wanted to try. Most of the creatures in white will turn on its ability to attack, and it is perfectly serviceable as a 2/1 blocker in the air. War Falcon does not fit into any color pair better than others but functions as a solid body on its own.

Nyxborn Shieldmate falls under the category of bestow. I am excited to see how well this card performs, but I will be perfectly willing to cut it in case it stinks. I feel that adding the extra point of toughness is going to matter in board stall even if the body as a creature is unimpressive.

Expendable Troops is an aggressive 2-drop that doubles as combat-based removal. This is the epitome of a white card (y’know, aside from the dying attribute).

Akroan Skyguard and Wingsteed Rider both come in to fuel the Selesnya deck of building a bigger monster. Alongside Empyrial Armor, they help to create the backbone of a pseudo-heroic strategy. Akroan Skyguard is the only card that seems out of place in a non-kingmaker deck, but the upside is huge.

Leonin Skyhunter comes in as a solid reward for being base-white while Rebuke finds a home for being a relatively cheap combat-based removal spell.

In composition, white added creatures, jumping from 73.85% monsters to 75.76%. This is still right where I want to be. White’s curve became more aggressive. Removing 5-drops and adding more aggressive 2-cost spells has pushed white firmly toward the aggressive camp. While the Aura-based removal allows for more controlling white decks, the color is now geared to beat down.

Blue

In Out
Withdraw Skywatcher Adept
Cloud Elemental Cloud Spirit
Scroll Thief Rishadan Airship
Nyxborn Triton Infiltrator il-Kor
Sky-Eel School Spire Monitor
Merfolk Looter

Blue’s changes were designed to make the color less aggressive. Cloud Spirit, Rishadan Airship, and Infiltrator il-Kor made blue a reasonable core color for beatdown decks. While I want blue to have aggressive options, it should not be a primary function. Skywatcher Adept and Spire Monitor got the axe because they were unimpressive and rarely saw play.

Withdraw
Withdraw provides a powerful effect that helps blue decks keep up with the more aggressive strategies. This card would be a blowout, especially against the potential Selesnya kingmaker deck. I have had my eye on this card for a few updates, and I feel that now it has a chance to shine.

Cloud Elemental slots in alongside Scrapskin Drake as a reasonable flying attacker that isn’t solely aggressive. It helps the deck fight against other flyers while being a decent attacker on its own. Scroll Thief comes into the Cube for a second time. Blue always wants creatures with high toughness, and both Dimir and Izzet decks want a way to refuel their hands once removal has been used. Scroll Thief fits these roles while also working nicely as a card in Azorius Skies—if the opponent blocks, you are able to use white’s removal.

Nyxborn Triton has bestow, but it also provides a solid body. The Triton is big enough to allow whatever is wearing it to trade with many of the larger creatures in the Cube. It also plays well with blue’s armada of flying creatures. All in all, it’s a solid addition.

Sky-Eel School replaces Spire Monitor with a decent-sized flyer that helps blue dig for cards and acts as a pseduo-spell while also playing nice with Flicker subthemes. Merfolk Looter was a cut from when blue was overpowered but the cube is at a place where I feel it will not improve the color drastically.

Blue remained its 60%/40% creature–spell balance, which is right where it wants to be. Blue’s curve also remains similar to its old form even though it has gained additional 2- and 3-drops. In the future, I will look for some solid 4-mana spells as potential inclusions.

Black

In Out
Carrion Feeder Unearth
Festering Newt Sorin's Thirst
Nyxborn Eidolon Pharika's Cure
Highborn Ghoul Kuro's Taken
Sightless Ghoul Null Champion
Mortis Dogs Surrakar Marauder
Deathgaze Cockatrice Diabolic Edict
Warren Pilferers Seal of Doom
Corrupt

Festering Newt
Black is home to some more serious overhaul and change in philosophy. I wanted to make black’s removal worse while also skewing the color slower and providing more options for mono-black decks. This necessitated some interesting changes. First was cutting Seal of Doom, Sorin's Thirst, and Pharika's Cure. Seal of Doom provided another restriction-light piece of removal, which is something black did not need. The other two were fine spells, but black needed more creatures. Unearth also fell victim to black needing more creatures, so it is currently playing the role of sixth player for five-on-five. Kuro's Taken, Null Champion, and Surrakar Marauder are holdovers from when black needed more 2-drops. Before this update, it led the Cube in that curve spot, and excising these three helped to slow down the color while not removing beatdown options.

Carrion Feeder is among my favorite creatures of all time. I play it in various Commander decks and also have a soft spot for the Zombie in competitive Pauper. It comes in to the Cube to provide black an answer to white’s removal and as a way to give some of black’s weaker creatures value later in games. It also has merit with black’s abundance of Gravedigger effects.

Festering Newt is a strong, defensive 1-drop that also goes rotting hand in webbed toe with Carrion Feeder. Removing two of black’s weaker removal spells opened a spot for creatures that can trade up, and Festering Newt does just that.

Nyxborn Eidolon provides a creature on curve or an Unholy Strength late. I predict this card will be a cross-archetype star, providing the early beats and late pressure in aggro and helping slower decks win attrition battles. It also goes well in Orzhov and Dimir, where black relies on the other color’s flyers to help seal the deal.

Highborn Ghoul plays up the devotion notion by replacing Surrakar Marauder. While the double-black casting cost might hurt its chances of seeing play outside of Swamp-heavy decks, it does have the benefit of being a 2-power creature with natural intimidate that can block (unlike Nezumi Cutthroat).

Sightless Ghoul
Sightless Ghoul earns a spot because both undying and persist have proven to be excellent abilities in the Cube. While the inability to block might mean it eventually is cut again, I want to give this Zombie a fighting chance. A 2/2 that upgrades into a 3/3 fits very well into a Golgari deck that can put this into play faster via mana Elves or aid it through combat tricks.

Mortis Dogs comes with the Stybs stamp of approval. When looking at my Cube through various lenses, I came to realize exactly how important a card like Mortis Dogs can be. First, it fits very well into black aggressive decks such as Rakdos. It also has utility with all the Equipment floating around and now works very well with the bestow creatures. In Golgari, it can work with green’s power-boosting to drain even more life. Mortis Dogs is a stitcher card—it does not stand out in any one archetype, but it plays a very important role in multiple decks.

Deathgaze Cockatrice provides a solid body with two relevant abilities. In my efforts to give black more at the right end of the mana curve, I will be on the lookout for cards like this one. The fact that it can trade up or take over the air on its own excites me—I think this card will be a solid role-player in the Cube.

Warren Pilferers was cut not too long ago in an effort to reduce the power of black’s Gravedigger-style cards. It has earned a spot again by being a decent-sized creature with an upside. I am wary of the number of these creatures currently in the Cube (four including Corpse Hauler), but for the time being, I am okay with a high concentration. Creature combat matters in this environment, and I want there to be a way for people to recoup their losses.

Corrupt is another nod to playing on black’s penchant for playing with itself. Corrupt provides a powerful first pick that can send someone along the mono-black path. This card works with Gray Merchant of Asphodel and Crypt Ripper to provide the foundation for a potential monochrome deck.

After this update, black has become heavier in the creature department. Previously, it had matched blue in a sixty-forty split; now black is two-thirds creatures. This is definitely the direction I want the color to go, and the creature count is aided by Warren Pilferers and its ilk. Black’s curve is also in a better place. The 2-drop spot has decreased, and the curve has shifted to the right. I’ve also managed to increase the number of cards that play into black’s mono-color theme while not diluting its ability to play with other. For black this update appears successful.

Red

In Out
Dynacharge Reckless Charge
Nyxborn Rollicker Forge Devil
Mogg Flunkies Seal of Fire
Pouncing Kavu Emrakul's Hatcher
Fireblast Rolling Thunder
Torch Fiend Ingot Chewer
Act of Treason
Ember Beast

Dynacharge
Red, like black, needed to up its creature count and diversify its spell suite. I also wanted to play up red’s place alongside the other colors. This meant finding cards that played well in those developing archetypes. Red also was able to add two free cards in this update. Reckless Charge is a powerful card that never was played, so it finds itself out this time, but I can see a scenario where it comes back in to aid Rakdos and Boros decks. Forge Devil is a nice card in the abstract, but it rarely was played; the drawback of being a blank on the play hurt it in the Cube’s hellbent color. Seal of Fire was removed to reduce the instances of cheap removal. Rolling Thunder got the Recumbent Bliss treatment—it’s a powerful card that created unfun game states. I want people to enjoy playing the Cube and the have games be full of back and forth, and Rolling Thunder allows one player to just go, “Oops, I win.” No good. Ingot Chewer and Emrakul's Hatcher were both victims of red’s need to go west on the mana curve. The Hatcher is potent both in its ability to clog the board and to provide a reasonable body. It has been in the Cube a long time, and I want to see if red can go without, but like Reckless Charge, I can envision it making a dramatic return. Ingot Chewer is a fine card, but red can blow up artifacts with more efficient bodies.

Dynacharge is my first attempt at adding spells of this stripe. There are no mass-pump effects in the Cube, and Dynacharge is flexible enough to earn a cup of coffee. I have high hopes for it stealing games for Boros and Gruul while also providing some reasonable combat tricks. If it works out, this bodes well for other versatile pump spells in red.

Nyxborn Rollicker is the bestow creature I hold in the lowest regard. I believe the option for a 1-drop or a +1/+1 bonus early are both valuable, and I have high hopes. That being said, I am prepared to eat my words on this one and cut it in the future. Creature combat matters in my Cube, and I feel the +1/+1 will matter more than enough to justify its slot.

Pouncing Kavu
Pouncing Kavu is another card that used to be an all-star in the Cube. Historically, red has had too many 4-drops in my Cube, and the Kavu was a victim of trying to lower the curve. With the absence of Emrakul's Hatcher and Ingot Chewer, the Kavu is ready to pounce again. First strike is an important ability in a Cube as focused on combat as this one, and Pouncing Kavu should do just fine in battles.

Fireblast gives base-red beatdown decks a way to close the game. This card comes in as a way to help give red a cohesive feel as an all-out aggressor. Fireblast can end games in a flash and feel far more red than Rolling Thunder. Fireblast is also a unique effect while the X spell has cheaper analogs in Arc Lightning and Pyrotechnics.

Torch Fiend picks up the baton from Ingot Chewer, giving red an on-curve beater that also doubles as artifact removal. If this card performs well, its comrade-in-arms Reckless Reveler will also get the call.

Mogg Flunkies and Ember Beast get the nod as cards that slot into red decks that attack with multiple creatures. They are undercosted for their sizes and play well in non-Izzet decks, but they fulfill different roles in each. In Gruul, Ember Beast is an early drop than can be powered out by a mana Elf, and it presents another large threat, while in Rakdos, it can be near the top of the curve and provide another must-answer threat.

Act of Treason is a nod to the search for nonburn spells. I have avoided cards like this because I feel that they do not impact the game often enough to matter. Only Carrion Feeder allows the Act to double as a removal spell. That being said, it does help red right some of the larger creatures from the other colors and can be a soft finisher. A call for a second Act could mean Traitorous Blood gets an audition.

In this update, I wanted red to gain some creatures while dropping in mana cost. Red added 2- and 3-drops and lost some 5s, making it a faster color, and it has taken the 2-drop slot away from black. Red also upped its percentage of creatures from 60.94% to 62.12%. Taking Dragon Fodder and Krenko's Command into consideration, red is very close to its sweet spot for monsters.

Green

In Out
Wandering Wolf Nightshade Peddler
Wild Mongrel Sylvok Replica
Ranger's Guile Arachnus Web
Cultivate Ondu Giant
Kodama's Reach Silverglade Elemental
Thrashing Mossdog Elephant Ambush
Snake of the Golden Grove Cloudcrown Oak
Nyxborn Wolf
Pheres-Band Tromper
Nylea's Disciple
Rumbling Baloth
Aura Gnarlid

Cultivate
Green was in a solid place before, but it was short cards. My old plan for color balance left green four cards behind the Esper colors. That means, in this update, green received five free cards (one from pure growth). As for what green lost, Silverglade Elemental and Ondu Giant were both great cards that were supposed to help ramp, but by the time they were cast, the land either provided was almost incidental. Arachnus Web felt out of flavor in green, so it also went away. Nightshade Peddler was in the Cube to give mana Elves utility later on, but that rarely happened. The interaction with red’s pingers was useful, and if the Peddler gets to sell his wares again, it will be on the back of those combos. Sylvok Replica was too small of a creature to justify its role as a Naturalize on legs. Cloudcrown Oak came out for a different creature with reach, and Elephant Ambush is taking a breather to see if green actually needs two sneaky pachyderms.

Kodama's Reach and Cultivate replace the summon-style ramp cards. These allow green to jump from 3 to 5 and start playing out larger threats. They also come with an insured land drop, which green needs more than other colors. Finally, they enable light splashes for nearly-mono-green decks.

Wandering Wolf is a stitcher card. It mainly comes in to help the Selesnya kingmaker deck, but it works well as a slightly evasive 2-drop. In Golgari, it wears scavenge counters well, and the bloodrush creatures in Gruul are happy to help. And if all that fails, it still attacks for 2. Aura Gnarlid fills a similar role except it would much rather be in a G/W deck. These two cards can help end stalemates, which can be important in clogged boards.

Wild Mongrel is just a solid creature and helps to enable aggressive decks. It is also a card people expect to see in the Cube, which is important when drafting with an entirely new pod. I do feel comfortable drafting, and giving them certain cards they expect aides that feeling. It helps them adjust to what is otherwise an unfamiliar environment.

Ranger's Guile is an experiment in low-cost defensive pump spells. If it works, other +1/+1 and some bonus spells could make their way in, but I wouldn’t hold my breath, as they just don’t do enough. This, at least, stops a removal spell.

Thrashing Mossdog provides a smaller body with reach. With the advent of Nessian Asp and Sentinel Spider, green’s ability to clog the skies was becoming a bit too good. Cloudcrown Oak got the axe for a smaller (and Lightning Boltable) Mossdog that has some utility in the late game. I am a huge fan of scavenge, so I might be biased toward this card, but the truth will be in the Drafts.

Snake of the Golden Grove
Snake of the Golden Grove will either be a 4/4 that gains 4 life or an 8/8. Both sides seem very good in the Cube, and I for one am excited to see how tribute plays. I have a feeling that this might prove to be too good (or just removal fodder), but regardless, I cannot wait for the first time I cast this on turn four.

Speaking of turn four, Rumbling Baloth comes in to help reinforce the idea that green is supposed to have the best large creatures at cost. Previously, the 4/4-for-4 slot was taken by Rhox Brute, but that shortchanged green, so the Brute got the boot. In the future, I will try to give green first crack at larger creatures at cost to help define the color.

Pheres-Band Tromper fits that mold well. It is in the right color to come out early and can get rather large in short order. Inspired, as an ability, encourages attacking, which means this card will fit into green’s beatdown-focused decks.

Nyxborn Wolf is another creature with bestow, but it does far more. It helps to enable the Selesnya strategy while acting as an in-color combo for Aura Gnarlid and Wandering Wolf. It also will help Golgari in attrition battles, as that deck tends toward the smaller end of green’s monsters.

Nylea's Disciple is an experiment. While I do not want to push green devotion, I want to see if there is enough of a reason to go heavy base-green and start splashing for other high-impact spells. Five-Color Green has not appeared in my Cube yet, but with the advent of Kodama's Reach and Cultivate, maybe it’s time. The Disciple could aid this play by providing a decent boost in life.

Green was in a good place in terms of composition. In this update, it moved only a hair, going from 83.61% creatures to 83.33%, right where green should be. I added a more diverse spell suite, which should provide some options for green mages. Green’s curve remains largely unchanged aside from a spike at the 3 to a very reasonable level.

Multicolored

In Out
Cerodon Yearling Tidehollow Strix
Cavern Harpy Desecrator Hag
Consult the Necrosages Gorger Wurm
Morgue Burst Rhox Brute
Travel Preparations Seeds of Strength
Agent of Horizons
Sewn-Eye Drake

The gold section got a serious overhaul. All guilds now have access to six cards. To enable this, some guilds lost more than others. The cards that remain are there to help push people into the overarching strategies I want to seed, which are:

Cavern Harpy

  • Azorius – Focus on tempo and skies decks with a Flicker subtheme.
  • Boros – Battalion-style attacking with a tokens subtheme
  • Dimir – Value control with Flicker and graveyard subthemes
  • Golgari – The Rock/attrition with a heavier focus on the graveyard
  • Gruul – The biggest and cheapest monsters and pump
  • Izzet – Counterspells, tempo, value, and burn
  • Orzhov – Play for the long game, and toy with life totals.
  • Rakdos – All out aggressor: Throw everything at the opponent with a very minor long-game, destroy-all-monsters sub-theme
  • Selesnya – Build a better hero with Auras and counters.
  • Simic – Ramp into large creatures and card-draw.

Azorius remained unchanged while Boros added Cerodon Yearling. Common R/W cards are hard to find, and the Yearling did the best job at playing into the guild.

Dimir had a few swaps. Tidehollow Strix was cut outright to make place for Cavern Harpy to help enable the Flicker (or recycling enters-the-battlefield-effects) theme. Consult the Necrosages finds a home due to that spell’s options, as both halves have merits in both a fast and slow Dimir Deck.

Golgari lost Desecrator Hag. This card was a concession to adding another card to the pair, but it was always underwhelming. When you cast a Gravedigger, you want a choice of what to bring back, and having that choice limited or predetermined created awkward moments. Gruul also lost cards in the form of Rhox Brute and Gorger Wurm. These cuts were done to help give green an identity as the large creature color and shift that focus away from Gruul.

Travel Preparations
Rakdos had an open slot and acquired Morgue Burst. The Dragon’s Maze card has long intrigued me, and I want to see if it provides some help to the slower Rakdos deck. The ability to raise something from the dead and take out a blocker seems powerful. If this works out, it bodes well for cards like Grave Exchange in the future.

Selesnya made a swap of Seeds of Strength for Travel Preparations . Travel Preparations plays nicely into the champion model of the guild while having the bonus of enhancing other creatures permanently. Seeds of Strength is a fantastic heroic enabler, but with only heroes, it fell by the wayside.

Simic lost Agent of Horizons in a color squeeze, and Sewn-Eye Drake is cut in favor of color balance. The Drake also has the problem of giving Dimir something I don’t think the deck should have in a strong, haste flyer.




Forty-eight in and forty out. This is a massive change to any Draft environment. The goal was to bring the cards in line with their missions, and while, in theory, I have done that, I need to test the results. Here is the final list I will be using for the Born of the Gods cycle. While Drafts are the best way to do this, I want to know: How do you determine the efficacy of your changes to your Cubes?

Keep slingin’ commons–

-Alex

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