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Zendikar Rising Limited Set Review with MTG Nerd Girl
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The Community Cube: Innistrad

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Did you think it was over? Were you disappointed to see the scrubbed launch at Pro Tour: Philadelphia? Has the hope for a better tomorrow filled with just a little more Cube action evaporated from your heart?

You misjudged us, good sir.

The Community Cube is alive, and ready to get kicking. We updated it for Magic 2012, and now it’s time to unleash the darkness of Innistrad into the box. This means two things:

  1. We need to determine what cards to add.
  2. We need to cut the cards to fit them in.

Both of these require you! This week, we’ll run down the best of the horror plane, giving you the opportunity to vote on including it or not. If you’ve voted before, you’re already familiar with the process, but here’s a quick reminder if you need it:

  • In each poll, check the box for each (and every!) card you think should be included.
  • The winners will be cards that reach the 51% threshold. (So please vote for every card you want to see included!)

Next week will be the vote for cards to be cut. The week after that, the reveal article will go live as the Community Cube is unveiled at Worlds in San Francisco! If you’re ready to tune a Cube, let’s go!

Stalwart and Steadfast (White)

Bonds of Faith

I’m going to cheat and share with you a brief analysis of Bonds of Faith I made on my pauper Cube blog. In summary, the non-Human requirement to remove something doesn’t diminish the effectiveness too much. As Innistrad Limited has demonstrated, this is obviously a fine removal spell.

Chapel Geist

If you’ve seen Talon Trooper, this is its ever-so-slightly-easier-to-cast new cousin. If you liked the first, this sequel seems good enough too, though 3 toughness is pretty handy in the air.

Thraben Sentry

There are already a few finisher-type cards in White in the Community Cube, including Noble Templar and Plover Knights. Thraben Sentry is a little different; it can come down early, before combat, and turn into a monster if your opponent blocks. For an aggressive White deck that wants to discourage blocking, a creature that transforms on a Morbid trigger feels right.

Rebuke

AWOL is a favorite card of mine that Rebuke reminds me of, but this is a cleaned-up version of a card that first appeared in the Portal series. We’ve eschewed the 4-mana versions of this effect (such as Divine Verdict and Neck Snap), but if going down to 3 mana tickles your fancy, vote for it here!

Spare from Evil

Falter is a classic effect in Red. This effectively grants it to White, too. Humans certainly abound, but not in the numbers that make this unplayable. Is there room for a clever spell that can catch players off-guard?

Village Bell-Ringer

Do you enjoy casting Pestermite in response to attacks? Does the idea of Vitalize make your combat blowout sense tingle? Village Bell-Ringer is quite a handful in Innistrad Limited, and makes the previously included Stonehorn Dignitary look anemic. Even on his own, the Bell-Ringer has the toughness to withstand blocking on its own.


[poll id="113"]


True Blue

Claustrophobia

This is straight-up Blue removal. It’s 1 mana fewer, and a speed slower, than Mystic Restraints, but this still works. Unlike something like Narcolepsy, which lets the creature untap and potentially profit from tap-requiring activated abilities, Claustrophobia stops that cold. This is as close as to a Blue Arrest as there has ever been.

Delver of Secrets

All right, so let’s get one thing clear: The presence or absence of a card in a given format is not the entire story for its relative strength. Delver of Secrets sees play in Legacy, providing an incredibly aggressive creature that is surprisingly synergistic with the variety of instants used, as well as the ever-present Brainstorm. Does this translate to a Pauper Cube? I’d argue that it doesn’t. Pauper Cube more often approximates traditional Limited—creatures come down in droves to attack and block—and doesn’t have the density or reliability of four Brainstorms in every deck running Blue. I’m not a fan, but if you want to give it a go, it’s your call!

Stitched Drake

I’ve gushed about Wormfang Drake before, and this is as close as an approximation as there has been in years. While exiling a creature may seem steep, the prize is that an early (aggressive) block is rewarded with a moderately impressive body for the cost. Later in the game, a 3/4 with Flying is still very relevant. I love this guy, and you should, too.

Makeshift Mauler

It’s not a flying terror like its stitched cousin, but a 4/5 ground-pounder is a deal at just 4 mana in Blue. It’s even easy to cast for those decks concerned with color coordination! Blue doesn’t have many sizable bodies at fair costs, so slipping this guy in should help shore up the weak creature base that plagues it at common.


[poll id="114"]


Darkness Cometh (Black)

Dead Weight

A sorcery-speed-but-permanent Disfigure is an obviously attractive option. Not only is this surprisingly lethal, it’s also strong enough to bring formerly dominating dudes down to a size that can be handled.

Vampire Interloper

While I’m still a little skeptical of a 2/1 flying in a color with plenty of other, more evasive creatures, this is at the cusp of aggressive creatures. 2 power with evasion is never something to sneeze at.

Victim of Night

This kills more creatures than Terror, by far. While it’s considerably less effective in Innistrad, that shouldn’t necessarily color your entire perception of the card. For a piece of Black removal, it can actually kill many Black creatures. I like this aspect, as it becomes less rewarding to draft Black creatures but pass some of the Black removal, counting on some of it to table easily.


[poll id="115"]


They Say “Freak” When You’re Singled Out (The Red, Chevelle)

Ashmouth Hound

I like aggressive creatures in Red. It’s a color inclined to attack, so providing it with bodies that make it easier to attack seems smart. No wimpy 1-toughness dude is going to trade with this Hound. And it’s such a good dog that it can even take something with 3 toughness to the graveyard with it. Good boy.

Bloodcrazed Neonate

Ah, yes. Okay. I like aggressive guys in the color of rage. This is a card only a mother (or skillful player) could love. Well, it does fit our criteria of being aggressive in Red. It also grows as you slug away at your opponent. What I don’t like is reading the words “attacks each turn if able” on a creature. Sometimes, you don’t want to attack, and 2 power for 2 mana is plentiful elsewhere without the rider, incremental +1/+1 counters be damned.

Brimstone Volley

3 mana for 3 damage doesn’t seem particularly sexy compared to Lightning Bolt or Incinerate. In fact, that 3 damage seems almost fair. Then, you read the rest of the card and see that amping up to 5 thanks to Morbid is absolutely nutty. A 3-mana, instant-speed Lava Axe is far above the curve. Read Char, then Brimstone Volley. Not fair at all.

Crossway Vampire

I’m rather fond of useful utility guys in colors that don’t get them (Black and Red). Here we have a 3-drop that lets our 2-drop pound away yet still trades on the curve against almost any other color’s 3-drop. It’s not the most awe-inspiring option, but sometimes less clever but consistent choices are correct for a Cube.

Pitchburn Devils

5 mana for a 3/3 seems even less exciting than the 3-mana-for-3-power option we just discussed. Au contraire, mon ami. These Devils do so much more than Crossway Vampire. Compare this to Mudbutton Torchrunner: For 2 more mana, you get a whole extra 2/2 stapled onto it! It’s a great deal for Red, as it presents an obvious two-for-one against opponents. Trade with it in combat? Use a removal spell that kills it? Sorry, that’s called value, and Red likes it.

Nightbird's Clutches

Some of us really appreciate Falter-like effects, but (in my opinion) this is very close to the line in terms of being playable. This isn’t something like Feeling of Dread or Wave of Indifference; dodging two creatures for 2 mana is pretty fair, but the Flashback feels slightly too expensive. If you feel these types of effects should be available even more, this is a card to vote for.


[poll id="116"]


A Greener Planet (Green)

Ambush Viper

Surprise Snake surprises! While Arachnus Web drew a few detractors and “anti–Green removalists” into the discussion, a creature that has to block to kill something is as Green as it gets. This is Green removal, and it’s as fair and inflexible as it gets. I could list out the creatures this doesn’t kill, but the fact remains that the list of those it does is far longer.

Caravan Vigil

Usually, you see the “find a basic land, put it into your hand” effect stapled to creatures. Sylvan Ranger, Borderland Ranger, and Civic Wayfinder are the champions of this. However, this spell can also dump it right into play for just 1 mana, conditional on Morbid. For aggressive Green-based decks that want to not only curve out but play bigger creatures, the threat of this spell makes blocking by opponents a little amusing. While I find it underwhelming, these types of ramp spells can be useful to spice up the usual approaches.

Festerhide Boar

While Steve Sadin pointed out the lower role that Festerhide Boar plays in Innistrad Limited, this isn’t necessarily applicable to Pauper Cubes. A 3/3 with Trample for 4 mana is fair, but significantly more useful when there aren’t as many bombs, fast decks are still slower than you’d expect, and mana-ramping spells are plentiful. When you get a 5/5 for 4 mana, the alarm bells of awesome should start going off. Ding, ding, ding!

Prey Upon

Did I say that Ambush Viper was Green removal? Sorry, this is Green removal. While blocking with a creature that has Deathtouch is pretty hard to mess up and two-for-one yourself, Prey Upon is a little gloomier. I still love it, and I still added it to my own Pauper Cube, but without a fatty on your side, this will be a two-for-one against you more often than not. Sometimes, killing that thing with Shadow or Flying is worth it. Sometimes, it will feel pretty silly a turn or two later. Heavy risk, but the prize . . . 

Spidery Grasp

Giant Growth, and more often Brute Force, destroys creatures consistently in Cubes. Because they’re cheap, it’s easy to keep opponents off guard against it; 1 mana is almost always innocuous and available. Spidery Grasp is very different. 3 mana is a commitment, although being able to untap something to block with is often worth it. While +3/+3 is fine, +2/+4 ensures that whatever you block with will most likely survive. I wasn’t ready to move in with this card, but if you’re down for a future with her, by all means vote to make it happen!

And, for the record, I recently drafted a Pauper Cube where this card was an absolute beating every time it was played. Take that for what it’s worth: a sample of one.


[poll id="117"]


Goldmembers (Multicolored)

Avacyn's Pilgrim

There are numerous Llanowar Elves–type cards at common, and the Community Cube includes a few of them (Arbor Elf, Fyndhorn Elves, and the namesake itself). Producing White mana helps encourage that allied pair to appear, unlike Arbor Elf. If the Pilgrim is something to shoehorn or swap in, please share in the vote!

Feeling of Dread

If you’ve ever played with Blinding Beam, you have a sense of how this card feels. While the Beam itself is quite different—as it prevents all of your opponents’ creatures from untapping, not just those it tapped—I’ve played with Feeling of Dread enough to know it fits quite well in aggressive U/W decks. Decks that are heavily White, or aren’t Blue, will feel this come across as anemic, but it’s still an instant that complements a tempo strategy well.

Forbidden Alchemy

Blue has plenty of card-draw effects at common, but many of them are sorcery-speed. While Alchemy isn’t card-draw outright, the fact that you convert a card and 3 mana into the best of the next four from your deck is a very powerful trick at instant speed. Once you can flash it back, you actually gain a card overall. I cut Mystical Teachings from my Cube some time ago, but this card feels like the replacement I’ve been seeking for so long.

Travel Preparations

This isn’t a Green card; you will never want this for any other deck than one that can flash it back. As a G/W card, it’s phenomenal! You can transform small utility guys, like Icatian Javelineers and Llanowar Elves, into respectable threats. In fact, using small fries to ramp up lets you cast and flash in the same turn, suddenly surging from a pair of dorks to 3/3 monsters. Since it’s a sorcery, some of you will be put off. “It’s not a ‘smart’ spell!” Yeah, attacking with bigger, better monsters sure is dumb.


[poll id="118"]


A Dragon’s Hoard (Artifacts)

Blazing Torch

This is one of the few cards to be rarity-shifted favorably in the past few years. First, Act of Treason was “demoted” to common, and found itself into hilarious situations in draft decks everywhere. Now Blazing Torch follows the path that Treason blazed, moving from uncommon down. Colorless removal isn’t as efficient as those with a color requirement, but for decks that have harder color requirements, it’s a lifesaver.

Traveler's Amulet

We currently aren’t using Wanderer’s Twig in the Community Cube. Traveler’s Amulet is the same card with a new name. If you want to add these types of cards in, this is your chance.


[poll id="119"]


Bad Moon Rising (Werewolves)

Where are all the Werewolf creatures? They’re right here. The Community Cube is over 450 cards, but there are just four common Werewolf creatures to add:

Tormented Pariah

Village Ironsmith

Grizzled Outcasts

Villagers of Estwald

I believe four is a number that’s far too small to add to the Cube as a theme. In fact, these may not bear that much fruit, as spells are cheap and plentiful enough to be played over time. That said, transforming any of these is a very good thing, and having them sent back to Human form is very hard for opponents as the game draws on.

Note that getting all four Werewolf creatures requires being R/G, requires them all to be in the chunk of Cube you’re drafting, and requires more luck in getting them to pop up in games. I would wait to see if more howlers help things shake out in Dark Ascension, but if you want to start now, this is your opportunity.


[poll id="120"]




Innistrad is a very rich set for Pauper Cubes; I hope this journey through the dark plane has you pumped, because next week, we’re killing cards! See you then!

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