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Magic 2015 Pauper Cube Update

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As I grow older and my time becomes filled with the rigors of adulthood, I have to make the some hard choices. One of the hardest is how to allocate my Magic time. Between Drafts, Commander, and Magic Online, there is always more to do than there are minutes available. One thing I always manage to carve out time for, however, is my Cube.

Battle Screech
I have a reputation of being “that Pauper guy,” and my Cube does nothing to counter that modicum of renown. But I do not keep it common-only for the sake of appearances. Rather, I maintain a Pauper Cube because I love (repeat, bold, italicize love) the gameplay. Over time, the environment has evolved to one in which combat matters and attrition reigns. Tempo and card advantage matter, but playing my Cube is an exercise in the grind. The work I have done over the course of this series has allowed other archetypes to shine, and while balanced, it continues to be a work in progress. Sticking to commons means that there are few huge swings, and setting up your plays is of greater import than peeling a bomb at the right time. It is Limited, distilled, to its finest oak-soaked essence.

So when Wizards releases multiple sets with rarity shifts, my interest is piqued. Both Conspiracy in the paper world and Vintage Masters in the digital realm had rarity-shifted cards. This presents a bit of a conundrum for me. While Conspiracy was designed largely with New World Order in mind, the cards in Vintage Masters most certainly were not. Even though my Cube draws on the entire history of Magic, I have worked rather hard to keep it balanced. The release of non-Standard releases means that, as a Cube builder, I face two paths. After much deliberation, I have decided on the following: If a card, printed at common anywhere, can serve the Cube, it will be worthy of consideration. Anything else is a disservice to the game.

I will not be making any Vintage Masters additions to the Cube in this update. I will be keeping my eyes on both Battle Screech and Beetleback Chief for the future, as both cards could help with the Boros tokens archetype. Chainer's Edict is certainly an exciting and high-powered option. Considering I am trying to temper the removal in my environment, it might be too strong.

Conspiracy presents different circumstances. I am adding one rarity-shifted card and a brand-new common. I am not considering the draft-matters cards. Conspiracies are cool, and the artifacts that alter the draft add an interesting dynamic, but they both draw their fun factor from having multiple copies available. My Cube is still Highlander, and as such, it does not follow to include cards that require extra copies.

More than this, I want my Cube to focus on the games played more than the draft. Making the draft a separate game could be fun once in a while. If I want to do that, though, I’ll just build a Multiplayer Draft Stack.

With all of that out of the way, let’s go on to the updates proper.

White

OUT IN
Expendable Troops Custodi Squire
Haazda Snare Squad Triplicate Spirits

Custodi Squire
White is the army color. It strives to overwhelm an opponent in combat and with superior numbers. The color has been holding its own, but it sometimes can falter in the late game. This makes sense, as many of its creatures fall on the smaller side of the scale. Supply-Line Cranes from the last update helps add to the late game. Custodi Squire will do the same. As a 3/3 flying creature for 5, it has base stats that prevent it from being a complete embarrassment. Gravediggers are fantastic in my Cube, and one that flies, in white, could quickly become a first-pick-quality card. The fact that it fights Mulldrifter (the gold standard for power) and wins in battle means something. Card-advantage creatures rarely come at this size, so the Squire deserves its chance at knighthood.

Triplicate Spirits fills a similar role. The Magic 2015 sorcery presents three bodies, and in a white deck, it is not hard to imagine it hitting the table on turn four. 3 evasive power that early is well worth a spell slot. Combine this with white’s dominating combat suite, and we have a card that could increase white’s mid- and late-game potency.

White will be losing Expendable Troops and Haazda Snare Squad. The former was a card that caught my eye but that has not lived up to expectations. I should have known this, as the card was designed with the Stack in mind. Haazda Snare Squad is a fine card but plays defense a little too well for an aggressive tapper. Master of Diversion is a similar card that also applies pressure.

Blue

OUT IN
Sky-Eel School Frost Lynx
Trained Condor Coral Barrier

Frost Lynx
There is not much to say about this update. Sky-Eel School was a card that has bounced in and out of the format for years. It presents a nicely-sized body with some upside. It is just on the good side of playable. Blue does have a ton of card-draw, and in attempts to reduce the color’s overall power, I am constantly looking for ways to reduce this raw card economy. Frost Lynx, on the other hand, is a nifty combat effect for blue. While Islands should not be the best at winning combats, I want to give blue-based tempo decks another tool. Frost Lynx will work just fine in these decks since Kor Hookmaster excels in the same role. Frost Lynx also plays nicely with the various Unsummon effects available in the format.

Trained Condor never did much. I put it into the Cube to function as a pseudo-Simic card, but it never took off. Instead, it was just another flying creature. Coral Barrier is a stellar blocker that comes with some added value in an evasive attacker. Considering this update has taken a control card from blue, it only seems fair to give one back. The Squid is in.

Black

OUT IN
Sightless Ghoul Wakedancer

Again, there is not much to say. Undying is one of my favorite mechanics, as it comes with built-in card advantage. Sightless Ghoul is an expensive 2/2 at 4 mana, especially since it cannot play defense. Blocking is important since it is a key way of turning on undying. Problems it has a few. Wakedancer will almost always make 4 power for 3 mana—a great deal. There is not much else to say. Making 4 power immediately is better than 5 power the hard way.

Red

OUT IN
Minotaur Skullcleaver Inner-Flame Acolyte
Mogg Flunkies Borderland Marauder

Borderland Marauder
I apologize; these updates are rather rote. Minotaur Skullcleaver is fine, but Inner-Flame Acolyte comes with extra options. The ability to evoke the Elemental for a virtual Reckless Charge gives it the nod over the Theros standout. Borderland Marauder plays into red’s aggressive nature while not being completely useless on defense. Mogg Flunkies will be missed, but I think the Marauder will do just nicely.

There are red cards I considered long and hard for this update but that I ultimately left in the to-be-considered pile. The first was Traitorous Blood. Act of Treason is a relatively recent addition to the Cube, and I have not been able to fully assess its power. Until I do, Traitorous Blood will continue to ride the pine.

Inferno Fist would help the Cube in multiple ways. It would reduce the amount of pure removal while also diversifying red’s spell suite. I almost (as in had-the-card-out-of-the-sleeve almost) replaced Shock with Inferno Fist.

But I couldn’t do it—not in this update.

I will be watching games closely in this Draft cycle to see if Inferno Fist would be an improvement over a random burn spell.

Green

OUT IN
Snake of the Golden Grove Invasive Species

Kor Skyfisher is an all-star. It comes down early enough to stop the beatdown and can attack with efficacy. It also allows the caster to reuse enters-the-battlefield abilities and can function as a form of mana-fixing. Basically, it does everything. So when I saw Invasive Species, I knew I wanted to find a spot for it in the Cube. While it may not fly, I am willing to give it a shot. Snake of the Golden Grove never did anything special. It was present but never mattered. That is a death mark for me, and it finds itself on the cutting-room floor.

Artifacts

OUT
Kitesail
Executioner's Hood
Fleetfeather Sandals

Executioner’s Hood
These never saw play—ever. They would be drafted late and sit in sideboards. And there they stayed: three pieces of Equipment and three pieces of dead weight. While all three grant some form of evasion, the costs are too high to make them work. As such, we bid farewell to these trinkets.




These changes do little to shake up the Cube. Rather, they help expand upon the strategies I have been promoting for the past year. I must be doing something right since I see the number of smiles going up with each Draft. I am interested to see how Khans of Trakir shapes up for commons. The set may spur an adjustment in the gold section, but that is months away. Until then, it’s time for research. And by that, I mean Drafts. Here is a link to my updated Cube in case you want to take it for a spin. In case, y’know, you like grinding out games. Time is precious; use it to Cube.


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