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The Community Cube: Rewrite, Part 1


Welcome back! Here’s the latest update on the Community Cube. Last week started some voting to clarify and set up the room to make cuts and additions. At a high level, eligibility settings make the most powerful impact on Cubes, and lay down the framework of restrictions that make defining cuts and additions easier.

We had two major votes. The first was whether to include Unglued and Unhinged cards. The result was a resounding no, and these cards have already been cut from the lists, reducing what we’ll need to whittle down.

The second vote concerned what Pauper eligibility should be applied, and the result was also overwhelming: if a card was printed as a common in paper or “printed” as a common in MTGO. Easy enough answer, as that’s the most inclusive option. However, our first guest expert had an interesting comment that may help us out:

My suggestion would be to use commons from any release, but only those that are available online (I’m admittedly biased in favor of drafting online!).

That way, you get to keep stuff like Hymn and Fireball, which I’d really miss, but still play online. I don’t know if there’s any room for options other than the three listed, but thought I’d throw this out there in case.

What she’s suggesting is that we can be very inclusive, and only selectively avoid cards that aren’t online, not just commons online. This is the ultimate goal of creating an “online-enabled” Cube where it can be drafted at another site, but real decks can be created and played in MTGO. The option is incredibly powerful, and one that I had forgotten to include for last week. I strongly recommend it, and so does every player who has drafted and played Thea’s Cube online.

[poll id="40"]

Speaking of guests, let me introduce the guest experts who have provided feedback for us to consider in finalizing our Cube list!

Thea Steele is one of the most interesting and open faces of the Cubing community. Through her blog, Masked Admirers, and previous work at Star City Games writing a Cube column, Thea has shared a cleverly insightful and experimental view of cubing. Being unafraid to consider and try different ideas, she brings a refreshing clarity to some of the trickiness of tuning a Cube.

Usman Jamil is a bulwark of the Cubing community. A frequent poster in popular Cube forums, Usman has personally built several Cubes of his own as well as one directly for a local store to use! He, too writes a Cube column weekly, first for Quiet Speculation and now Star City Games, and occasionally posts to his own blog as well. With a thorough style grounded in the fundamentals of Cube, Usman has seen it all in pauper Cubes and knows the business well.

Alex Ullman is a once and again Pauper aficionado whose expertise in common is anything but. A writer for PureMTGO and Star City Games, Alex has been honing a decidedly different type of Pauper Cube with former Magic pro Seth Burn. Alex’s input is distinct, clear, and always something compelling to consider.

The rest of today’s voting will be something a little different than previously experienced. You’re going to see the overarching questions (be it cuts or additions) and many cards listed as check boxes to select. Your vote is to select the check boxes for the cards you want to see cut or added. The aggregate of everyone’s picks will prioritize which cards get cut and which get added, respectively. Of course, each section will have a description on what cards are listed and why they are included. All the information you need to vote is included!

Let’s start with White.

White has some interesting options to consider cutting. After losing AWOL to the Un- vote, we’re down to roughly thirteen total cuts that need to be made. Here are some expert thoughts.

Alex had these nuggets to share:

  • I am not a fan of Castle Raptors. While White control should be viable, 5-drops really need to be great to make it into my Cube, and he only seems okay.
  • I am also anti–Guardian of the Guildpact, as it does not promote interactive play, and sometimes is just too darn good. The Mercadian Masques Rebel flyers (Nightwind Glider and Thermal Glider) should be cut for the same reason, as they are immune to potentially half the removal.
  • I tried Glint Hawk Idol, but was never a fan; it simply was never “on” enough, and was a bad creature.
  • Cage of Hands, again, falls under the unfun-to-play-against banner.
  • If mass pump effects are going to exist, White needs to have fewer expensive creatures. I would like to see the Cube go in that direction. (Assault Griffin and Cloud Crusader are both expensive.)
  • Disenchant is a great card, but White just has better options. Cut it.
  • Mana Tithe does not fit into what White is in this Cube. I say, leave the counters to Blue.

Similarly, Usman shared some thoughts and ranked cut potential as primary, secondary, and tertiary:

I’ve never been too huge on the straight-up tapper creatures (Blinding Mage/Rathi Trapper) in the 2-mana range because of their relative inefficiency; if I were to suggest keeping one, it’d be Squall Drifter, since it can attack in the air evasively if need be, but it just feels like the 1/2 tappers don’t do enough for their cost, especially since most of the good removal in the format (in White/Black) costs 1 to 2 mana anyway. (This is also why I suggested to cut a lot of the White/Black 3-mana removal—Rend Flesh, Arrest, etc. Cage of Hands may just make the cut due to its ability to be recurred, but I’m not 100%. It could be just me wanting to have a lot of auras for the Hartebeest.) They feel like “safe cards”—cards that feel like they’re going to always make the final forty of a deck, but how much they provide for decks is what keeps them out.

I forget where I heard about it from, but when some scouts check training camps/minor leagues for players they calculate the expected wins that they’ll bring, and even if the Blinding Mage/Rathi Trapper types of creatures will make final forty cards, I’m not sure on what their expected wins will be (an analogue would be Civic Wayfinder/Borderland Ranger in powered Cubes, although I think those two cards are more than good enough in commons). But, like I said, if I had to keep one, Squall Drifter would be it (at the cost of taking out possibly Deftblade Elite).

I do feel odd about suggesting to cut all of the “pump your horde” spells (Embolden, Inspired Charge, Marshalling Cry, Fortify) in White, and if I were to keep one, it’d probably be Fortify. But I don’t know if the effects are really what aggro decks want since their spell slots are so constrained by the need to have so many creatures in the decks. It’s an interesting theme, but I’m just not sure if those cards do enough.

Primary cuts: Assault Griffin, Blinding Mage, Cloud Crusader, Hallowed Healer, Nightwind Glider, Thermal Glider, Apostle's Blessing, Embolden, Inspired Charge

Secondary cuts: Glint Hawk Idol, Infantry Veteran, Kami of Ancient Law, Ronom Unicorn, Wall of Glare

Tertiary cuts: Squall Drifter, Temple Acolyte, Arrest, Fortify, Marshalling Cry

I feel that more creatures than spells need to go, but I also agree with the reasoning to remove some or all of the global pump effects. However, keeping removal like Cage of Hands and Arrest seems fine, and I’d rather keep solid answers than questionable questions like Cloud Crusader.

From the Community Cube Facebook page, Joshua Kipling shared these gems:

Fledgling Griffin: Outclassed by White’s other 2-drops, flying and not.

Caravan Escort: Way too mana-intensive for my tastes. I’ve never felt like I’ve gotten my mana’s worth out of him, even when I’ve had the opportunity to get him to a 5/5.

[poll id="41"]

Blue is often the “tricky” color in Limited, providing powerful tempo tools and game-changing counterspells. It is also a point of contention in potential cuts.

Alex had a brief rundown of suggestions:

  • Dreamscape Artist steps on Green’s toes. Green has a hard enough time having an identity, and giving another color a way to filter and fix is like taking candy from a baby.
  • Looter il-Kor and Merfolk Looter are both cards that look better than they are. Often times with the Kor, you find yourself not wanting to attack to keep the card in hand, and this is just not a good thing. Similarly, Merfolk Looter is a card that does not do enough.
  • Wormfang Drake is too much downside.
  • Waterfront Bouncer looks like it should be great, but far too often, you want the cards you’re throwing away, and the bounce is negligible.
  • Brainstorm may not be good enough. Without fetch lands (that is, Marsh Flats or Polluted Delta and friends), it’s just not the card we all know it to be.

I happen to disagree with Alex on many of the counts. Wormfang Drake certainly has a “shields-down” moment when it’s cast, but getting value out of an early enters-the-battlefield creature and getting a 3/4 with Flying for just 3 mana is something I enjoy. Waterfront Bouncer can convert late-game lands into the punch and resets needed to stay in control. And while I yield the point on Brainstorm, it continues to shine with the various Green shuffle effects and instant-speed ways to dig for an answer.

One thing that I wanted to share that Usman, below, glossed over is that “pingers” (creatures that tap to deal 1 damage to target creature or player) are oven overrated and underpowered in common Cubes, particularly those that cost 3 mana. I’m not the biggest fan, but it only came to that after several iterations and trials, even forcing a multi-pinger deck several times.

Usman had thoughts too, as well as the three-way cuts breakdown:

Remove Soul/Essence Scatter may be worth keeping, but I felt that they were the weaker of the spells in Blue as that section is just so tight. Invisimancer was a painful cut but I feel the other 3-mana guys offer more for aggressive archetypes (Rishadan Airship) and other, more universal roles (Pestermite, AEther Adept, Sea Gate Oracle). Cutting the 1u creatures did feel a bit odd since they help shore up defenses, but I think that many Blue decks will be holding up mana at turn two. At least, I’m thinking so.

Primary cuts: Augury Owl, Fencer Clique, Prodigal Sorcerer, Boomerang, Divination, Neurok Stealthsuit, Oona's Grace, Undo

Secondary cuts: Essence Scatter, Remove Soul

Tertiary cuts: Giant Tortoise, Neurok Invisimancer, Scroll Thief, Think Twice, Withdraw

[poll id="42"]

Black is a challenging color for Pauper Cube. Some of Black’s more powerful cards require multiple Black mana to activate with, pulling away from integrating Black as an easier color to pair with. However, removing these cards cuts a potential powerhouse effect—board-sweeping—almost entirely.

Alex approached this issue head-on with his thoughts:

  • Crypt Rats is a card that needs discussion. There are not enough sweepers to make this remotely even. Both Rats and Pestilence give Black too much power in creature removal. I say, cut them.
  • Grave Scrabbler makes you jump through hoops for something that is easy to get in another couple of cards.
  • Undertaker suffers from the same problem as Bouncer, but is probably better. That being said, our Cube does not run reanimation cards.
  • Dark Ritual: is there enough payoff for this card?

And Usman simply listed all of his potential cuts:

Grave Scrabbler, Nantuko Husk, Pit Keeper, Rotting Legion, Vampire Hounds, Vault Skirge, Crippling Fatigue, Eyeblight's Ending, Raven's Crime, Rend Flesh

Unlike Usman and Alex, I am a fan of Crypt Rats/Pestilence, as well as Pit Keeper, Eyeblight's Ending, and Rend Flesh. Giving Black tools to kill more creatures (that is, removal without the “non-Black” clause) helps other decks splashing Black have an edge when facing it.

Since we voted to move away from a “Black matters” theme, Tendrils of Corruption is a card I would pass up. Similarly, cards like Duress and Ostracize are limited discard and can whiff. I’ve also moved away from Skittering Horror and Skittering Skirge, as I really like to keep casting creatures, taking away my opponent’s ability to sculpt a board state so unfavorable for me.

[poll id="43"]

Click here for Part 2

Editor’s note: This article has been split into two parts due to the number of polls, which may cause some browsers not to load the article. The second part can be found here. Please be sure to vote in both articles so you can weigh in on all the decisions to be made! — Trick

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