Red, too, has some difficult decisions to make. There’s a delicate balance to be struck between “all burn spells, all the time” and “weak, underpowered creatures” that I haven’t been able to carve out for my own Cube yet.
Alex takes his usual counterintuitive, interaction-based approach to Pauper Cubes here:
- Chartooth Cougar: Do we want Red to have this ability? For that matter, are the land-cycling creatures in general good enough to justify at all?
- Martyr of Ashes: I have found this card underwhelming in that Red decks rarely have enough density to allow it to be useful.
- Spikeshot Goblin: You should not have to jump through hoops to make a creature useful.
- Aftershock: Red should not have bar-none creature kill.
- Brute Force steps on Green’s turf.
- Disintegrate, Kaervek's Torch, and Fireball: No. Too good. At least Rolling Thunder requires .
While I agree with Alex on the Cougar (and land-cyclers in general), Martyr of Ashes, Spikeshot Goblin, and Aftershock, both Brute Force and the Red spells are classic ways for Red to end games. While there are a plethora of smaller burn spells, “splashing for Fireball” is as classic as Limited itself. That said, perhaps cutting one or two of the spells to help reduce how often this comes up is in order.
Usman shared a little insight into Red to go with his three-way cut scheme:
A lot of the Red suggested cuts are in the pinger category, as I’ve never been a huge fan of them in commons unless they’re efficient for their cost (Fireslinger, Vulshok Sorcerer—Sparksmith’s inability to hit players, I think, takes a good chunk of its playability away) and the midrange-costed creatures that are better served by other creatures. It saddens me to cut a lot of the hasty creatures, but I think the overall effect is stronger.
Green is a color of contradictions. Full of mana-fixing/mana-ramping and efficient creatures, it pulls in two directions unapologetically, making tough decisions for both final lists and drafters grabbing at it.
Alex had a usual list of things to drop:
- Arbor Elf: Green has enough elves.
- Jolrael's Centaur: Green likes making its creatures better. Shroud hinders that.
- Grazing Gladehart is too good against aggro decks.
- Sprout Swarm: This might be too good in the long run.
- Lignify: Green should not have removal. Rather, it should have tricks that mimic removal. Same with Utopia Vow.
I’m spot-on in agreement with Alex on all of these, except Sprout Swarm, which I haven’t had issues with without mass creature pump (yes, the world must be ending). I’d go further and suggest that a few of Green’s creatures that are a little less than efficient can go: Wild Leotau, Thundering Tanadon, Ronom Hulk, Kavu Primarch, and Citanul Woodreaders all feel significantly less powerful than what they may read as.
Usman also provided some cut suggestions:
I agree with many of these cuts, but I’m rather fond of Evolution Charm and Giant Growth; Green doesn’t have enough interesting spells outside of creatures as it is, and these two effects give Green powerful options.
All That Glitters Is Not Gold
You may be wondering, where is Thea? Surprise! She’s got the gold section—all ten color pairs—under control with excellent input! While Usman and Alex also have input here, Thea’s is the deepest and most comprehensive.
Allied color pairs are an interesting situation; these need a little trimming. Thea and Alex believe that for Blue/White, Silkbind Faerie is the card to pull, but Usman is not a fan of Esper Cormorants.
Blue/Black is a bit trickier, as Thea put it:
This section is tough because U/B can go in pretty different directions—and the cards here are pretty powerful, too.
I think Gravelgill Axeshark has to go. I don’t see it being an all-star in a tempo or control deck.
Mystical Teachings should stay, because I think it’s a card players will be excited to see early and build around.
In general, I like the unblockable guys, but I suspect that they lose some value in this format without the “just need to connect!”–style equipment. With that in mind, Dimir Infiltrator is less powerful than the other options. In addition, I tend to lean toward spells in multicolor sections, as spells are more likely to be relevant when you can’t cast them on curve (so they are an easier/more successful splash).
The last cut is rough, but I think I’d go with Probe. Blue has plenty of other card-draw, and the card I consider closest to Probe in quality, Tidehollow Strix, is just such a nice card in either Blue/Black strategy. Trade with something big and dumb, and be an evasive beater; I like that guy either way.
And while Alex agreed with Thea on Dimir Infiltrator, he disagrees about Mystical Teachings. As he puts it: “Part of the joy of Cube is the fact you only have one of each spell, and Teachings increases consistency in a way that no other card does.”
Usman took yet a different approach, attacking the spells that can make Blue/Black a stifling opponent to face, by suggesting Tidehollow Strix, Agony Warp, and Soul Manipulation. Everyone is all over the board in Blue/Black!
Black/Red comes with a different set of issues, and Thea laid out her thoughts on cuts:
I’d probably cut Henchfiend of Ukor (not a fan of Echo unless the creature is amazing) and Strangling Soot. I haven’t played with Soot, so maybe I’m spoiled and it’s better than I think, but I suspect Black decks will end up with better removal. Actually, I think Agonizing Demise might also be better than Strangling Soot.
Kathari Bomber, on the other hand, has the potential to be a five-for-one or something, and plays really well with any kind of sac outlet or mass removal you might end up with.
Thea shared some similar and different thoughts:
Branching Bolt is a weird one. It was great in Shards of Alara, but I think that block had an abnormally high number of flyers it could kill. When I ran it in my Cube, it never really seemed to do its two-for-one job, and without that, it’s just okay. I like Deadshot Minotaur a little better as it helps to smooth draws if needed in a combination that doesn’t really get that.
I think Kird Ape, Rhox Brute, and Tin Street Hooligan are the auto-includes, and I’d keep Scuzzback Marauders as well. It’s great to use these spots on hybrid cards when you can, and he has two really nice abilities.
As to Horned Kavu: I haven’t played it, but that looks to me like the type of card that you never play again after you get blown out the first time.
Green/White is the last of the allied colors, but arguably the toughest. I personally find the pair to be aptly full of powerful commons. Thea found that she “really likes Qasali Pridemage, Armadillo Cloak, and Shield of the Oversoul here,” but that “Thrill of the Hunt seems a little underwhelming, as it’s really only a trick once.” She’s also “a big fan of Sigil Blessing, and it’s kind of a perfect gold card in terms of how it plays well with the overlap between Green and White. That leaves Safehold Elite or Sigiled Behemoth for the cut. I think I’d keep the Behemoth, but if Green has a ton of monsters, maybe not.”
However, Alex and Usman took quite the opposite view, with both particularly pointing out that Shield of the Oversoul created some unfun moments.
Enemy color pairs are the only section where adding cards is required. Unfortunately, it’s also potentially the weakest section to consider; few enemy-color-pair commons are printed.
White/Black is the first pair to consider, and Thea and Alex both suggest Unmake, despite its difficult cost, and Harvest Gwyllion, a strong creature in combat. Thea went on to suggest Castigate as well, giving a silver bullet for in-hand attacks.
Black/Green is a classic color pair for me; I often force it in Pauper Cube draft to ensure I get removal, recursion, and fatties, a trio of power found in no other pairing.
Usman and Thea both keyed into this idea with Desecrator Hag, a Gravedigger variant that can be useful for Green-heavy decks in general. However, Alex felt that Golgari Rotwurm would be a nice finisher, particularly for token-heavy decks.
Looking at Green/Blue is an interesting exercise in strange choices. Thea, Usman, and Alex went with the classical approach of suggesting Coiling Oracle, but Thea went a step further with Trapjaw Kelpie (can be tutored with Mystical Teachings!) and Winged Coatl, something she “really, really likes.”
Josiah Spenner posted on the Community Cube Facebook page wall several items in agreement with our trio of experts, but had a unique suggestion here: Shielding Plax, “as it supports Green’s creatures-matter theme as well as Blue’s control. Added cantrip bonus as well.”
Blue/Red is historically one of the weakest pairs in terms of multicolor cards, particularly at common. Thea’s suggestion, along with Usman, was Razorfin Hunter. However, Alex felt that Noggle Bridgebreaker was the next-strongest card. I do want to point out that Alex’s option can work well with the “spell lands” as well as any lands with cycling laid down as an early land drop; it’s a subtle but effective card.
Finally, Red/White is the last pair for consideration. It’s also just as challenging as Blue/Red. Both Thea and Usman suggested Cerodon Yearling and Fire at Will, aggressive options for playing the usual Boros beatdown.
Alex chimed in with Fire at Will as well, but felt that Squee's Embrace was worth consideration. Tutorable with Totem-Guide Hartebeest (“Murberbeest,” as Alex affectionately calls it), it supports aggro and lets us recur a potentially devastating creature.
And there you have it! Vote above and see the final fruits of our efforts next week!