My God has arrived. I am wholly devoted to Pharika, God of Affliction and her Golgari brood. Journey into Nyx does not just complete our Therosian pantheon, it provides a slew of new commons for Pauper Cubes! While our fearless leader Adam used this opportunity to make a rather large update, I am going to be the restrained individual this time around. This is quite the change from my titanic Born of the Gods update. Why is this update so much smaller?
Last time, I was making multiple broad, sweeping changes to my Cube. The color balance was off, and there were multiple cards that had to be cut in order to improve the Draft environment. The good news is that these changes worked, and now drafting the Cube is a more enjoyable experience overall. The colors and guilds are largely balanced, so now comes the fine tweaking. If my Born of the Gods update was a plate of atomic wings, my Journey into Nyx changes are a dash of salt.
As for the changes themselves . . .
Out: Akroan Skyguard
Akroan Skyguard was included in order to support the G/W pseudo-heroic deck. Combined with Wingsteed Rider, I felt that these cards were going to provide a potent offensive threat. Wingsteed Rider came through, but Akroan Skyguard did not. The reasoning is obvious in hindsight: The Rider is a solid creature on its own while the Skyguard is underwhelming as a 1/1.
Supply-Line Cranes is a card that has a low setup cost. Instead of needing help, it grants aide. The Cranes are either a solid 3/5 flyer or a 2/4 member of the air force that provides 1 power of haste to a creature already on the battlefield. Oddly, I was initially against including the Cranes. It was not until I was looking at my spreadsheet and realized how closely it resembled Sensor Splicer (one of my favorite cards) that I came around. Both cards provide a reasonable amount of power for their cost, and both spread it across multiple creatures.
While this makes white slightly more expensive, it is made up for by the fact that Supply-Line Cranes will be a stronger card the vast majority of the time. If this change makes white too slow (which is doubtful), it is something I can fix in an upcoming update.
In: Cloaked Siren
I have spoken before about how card-draw is among the most powerful mechanics in my Cube. This would not be a problem if it were not so concentrated in blue. As such, I wanted to cut one of the Island-powered draw spells in this update. Thankfully, Cloaked Siren is exactly the kind of card I would want to include. It is an effective threat without being cheap enough to always be the beatdown. It is versatile, acting as both a combat trick and as a threat. Finally, it is far more fragile than Sentinels of Glen Elendra and Nephalia Seakite—two other options for a similar slot. As I want blue’s creatures to come with some downside the Cloaked Siren seems to be a great fit. While this does up blue’s critter count, it does not appear to be enough to push the color toward being monster-focused.
Black receives the largest makeover with Journey into Nyx. None of the cards that is leaving ever pulled its weight. Midnight Recovery, while nice, was never lived up to my expectations. Font of Return, on the other hand, will be the Midnight Recovery that never was. It will serve as a late-game source of card advantage without necessarily taking over a game. I have been hesitant to include Grim Harvest and Disturbed Burial due to their persistent ability to raise the dead. Font of Return, while a huge swing, is a one-time deal. I’m intrigued as to how it will play out.
Duty-Bound Dead was a fine card (and one that will find a spot on the bench), but I have been impressed with how good Typhoid Rats and Sedge Scorpion have been on both offense and defense, so replacing the Skeleton with Pharika's Chosen seems like a wise move.
Deathgaze Cockatrice was a solid 4-drop, but it never seemed to do enough to warrant being played. It was too slow to be an aggressive flyer and too expensive to put its deathtouch to good use. Instead, I am bringing back Surrakar Marauder. I had previously realized the error of my ways in taking the Marauder out. By bringing it back into the fold, I hope to give black more options to play the aggressor while not diminishing its role as control. With the additions of Font of Return and Pharika's Chosen, I think this goal will be met.
The changes in red are straightforward swaps. Dynacharge does a great job of souping up an army, but those decks are not common occurrences in the Cube. Rather, red decks will often look to be punching through those last points of damage, and Rouse the Mob—with its ability to grant trample—will be better at dealing the nineteenth and twentieth points of damage. It works very well alongside green monsters, and I am excited to see how Rouse the Mob plays out.
Bomber Corps was a pipe dream. I so wanted battalion to trigger on this card, but it never seemed to work out, and the rare times it did, the ability never actually mattered. Sigiled Skink occupies the same spot on the curve, but it can generate an advantage with a single attack—it doesn’t even have to connect! With red’s ability to clear a path with burn, I am holding high hopes for the Skink since Rummaging Goblin never held its weight. The ability to generate some advantage through scry on each attack bodes well. Also, it’s just fun to say Sigiled Skink.
Green is in a good place, which is a relief. Green was the problem child in the Cube for a long time, but it is starting to find a solid footing. Because of this, there is nothing I want to pull from the list in favor of any of the new cards.
These two cards have been promoted to the front of the line for next time. Madcap Skills provides a nonburn red spell, helping to add variety to the color. If red continues to gain cards like Academy Raider and the recently added Sigiled Skink, an on-color way to improve evasion could find its way into the Cube. Madcap Skills also has the bonus of playing nice with evasion in general. It is strong while also having a natural foil.
Ravenous Leucrocota is a fine card, and I wanted to find a way to get it into green. Vigilance is a strong ability, and the opportunity for a 5/7 brawler is hard to pass up. I just do not see it being better than any green card at the moment, so this member of the cryptozoological clan is just going to have to wait its turn.
That’s seven in and seven out, and my Cube now looks like this. These changes do not revamp the nature of the Cube, but instead reinforce what is already there. There is no card that is revolutionary, but instead, it’s just more good stuff. Reviewing the spoiler and feedback from recent Drafts, a thought started to form in my head.
One criticism I have received about my Cube is that the redundant cards make each inclusion feel less special. A Civic Wayfinder is awesome, but follow it up with a Borderland Ranger, and some of the thrill is gone. Probing deeper, this comes down to the idea that Cubes, in general, should be about unique play experiences. The focus should be the singularity of each card and how awesome each slot is. This is completely different than how I have tried to design my draftable stack. I strive to make a balanced and fun play environment, and if that means certain cards need to be repeated—Searing Spear and Lightning Strike, I’m looking at you—so be it. This brings Cube designers to a crossroads: card first or Cube first?
A card-first Cube is about including all the cool cards. Mulldrifter? Sure. Deadbridge Chant? Why not? Balance? Sounds like a plan! These Cubes are more about creating unique and varied play experiences across multiple Drafts, and while balance is sought after, it is secondary to the desire to include favorites. This style is better served with multiple rarities, as most of the really sweet cards come with expansion symbols that are not black. While I have not put together a Cube like this, I have seen those that belong to friends, and let me tell you: They are awesome. Much like highly publicized Cubes, they tend to be based around building forty-card version of Constructed decks. It’s not my preference, but it’s totally rad nonetheless.
A Cube-first Cube is about making the best possible Draft experience. The most important attribute of this style is the balance between the Draft and the games. No color should be better than the others, and every potential combination should be viable. This means that sweet cards sometimes have to be cut at the expense of balance. Look above where I cut Sift—which is a cool and powerful cards by all accounts—for Cloaked Siren. Now, don’t get me wrong, the Siren can do some cool things, but it doesn’t come close to Sift on many metrics (including power).
This concept is something I’m interested in exploring in the future, in part to see if I can find a good balance for my Cube to help find a home for some otherwise-cool cards. What do you think? Are you Card-First or Cube-First? Or is there another option I’m ignoring? Let me know!
Keep slingin’ commons—
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