With five more multicolor slots open and many more amazing cards to consider, Ravnica Allegiance was a great set to pore over for updates. There’s a lot going one, so let’s get started.
Shoring up the green-blue color identity in the cube is more than just looking at Simic cards. Both blue and green can be tweaked to allow functionally overlapping cards to support both what a green-blue deck wants to do as well as other strategies.
Skittering Crustacean is an serviceable defensive three-drop that transforms into a potent finisher if you ramp up. Rishadan Airship is redundant to other blue flying creatures, though I’ll miss my flying Human Pirate. (Pauper Cube Trivia: There are two other cards functionally similar to Airship, and at one point all three were in the cube!)
Black’s common creatures are often not the best aggressive creatures, even if it’s a great pairing for aggressive decks. Mardu Skullhunter is difficult for decks to “turn on” for turn two, and doesn’t play well on defense to boot. Blade Juggler is easier to turn on by the third turn, and is a redundant effect for Phyrexian Rager and Dusk Legion Zealot. Aggressive and control decks alike will appreciate the Juggler, which reinforces the subtle “resource conversion” strength of black in the cube.
Keldon Overseer was always slightly awkward, but at least it was some haste with a ramp payoff. Burning-Tree Vandal is repeatable card filtering for red decks, and riot is a powerful decision point for players to consider.
Until recently I considered Barbed Lightning an untouchable common. It’s obviously better than Open Fire, and feels like a two-for-one for the five-mana entwined cast. But it’s not actually a two-for-one, and mana efficiency has mattered more and more in the cube. Skewer the Critics is a sorcery, but trades all the speed for encouraging aggressive red decks to follow up with more damage or finish off a blocker. It’s not a functional swap but a nod that red burn can still get some great tools these days, and should be played for years to come.
Titanic Brawl is a strict upgrade to Pounce with the handful of creatures (plus Sparring Construct and Travel Preparations!) that get +1/+1 counters in the cube. But, as pointed out during the live Q&A, sorcery speed options that feel worse are still hanging around. Time to Feed can pad a cool 3 life, but for one more mana at sorcery speed means it’s time to sunset a very old Pauper Cube friend.
Ivy Elemental was always meant to be a flexible creature only ramp decks would like. Scaling from Gray Ogre and Hill Giant up to as big as needed, the Elemental was flexible but unexciting. Wrecking Beast is a 6/6 with haste or 7/7, both for seven mana in green. A fine payoff for ramp decks, and a great way to add more haste to the cube, the Beast should find a home in more decks.
These five cards, like the quintet that were added in Guilds of Ravnica, are joining the cube to level out the multicolor sections.
- Lawmage's Binding is Arrest with flash. This has obvious applications and strength.
- Kathari Bomber is a nod to what black-red can do best: Go all-in against a player. With the soft sacrifice theme in black, Kathari Bomber is fuel for the fire and a token maker to boot. Let the combat damage trigger go on the stack, then sacrifice the Bomber for even more value on top of the tokens. And then do it again.
- Frenzied Arynx hit hard and slots well into midrange decks thanks to riot.
- Imperious Oligarch is a slam dunk of afterlife, and the best common with the mechanic on it in the set. The ability to trade and retain value matters, with vigilance ensuring a control deck gets attacks of opportunity too.
- Growth Spiral isn’t necessarily the most powerful green-blue card, but it is a giant neon sign telling you what that color pair can do in the cube. A card that cycles for value that also can’t be taken by other blue decks helps green-blue get more options for a cantrip effect.
Making room for the expanded multicolor sections has come at cutting colorless cards that aren’t pulling their weight. That continues in this update.
- Eager Construct is marginal filler at best, and a disadvantage at worst. There’s enough aggressive two-drops to go around now.
- I’ll always fondly recall suiting up Yotian Soldier with Vulshok Morningstar, but a colorless 1/4 doesn’t see the play it used to. There’s other ways for slower decks to fill out their curves.
- Slash Panther always looked like colorless haste, but the low toughness didn’t force opponents to trade up. There’s plenty of better haste in the cube, outclassing what the Panther used to provide.
- Lurking Automaton is a hilarious card, but the clunky bookkeeping that players never expected when they first saw it in a pack was a drag on the novelty of it. A five mana 5/5 or 6/6 was pretty typical, and ultimately more of a tracking headache than fun addition to the cube.
- Blazing Torch is a weird Shock with a tribal effect that isn’t a focus in the cube. Expensive Shocks aren’t needed, and as “evasive” equipment goes it was an exception rather than rule to work.
There’s value in Pit Fight being an instant and easier to cast in more decks, but giving red-green an exclusive removal spell that also works well with token is what makes Savage Smash too hard to pass up.
Harsh Sustenance works well when you’re ahead with a board filled with creatures. That was often not the case in white-black control decks. Final Payment is a nod to all of the token creatures that can be sacrificed for its effect, and with extra enchantments around in white it isn’t hard to imagine using that mode either. (And you can always just pay five life!)
I was on the fence for a long time considering whether Aeromunculus or Beetleform Mage is a stronger consideration for green-blue decks. A 4/4 with flying is strong, but a 3/4 is often just as serviceable. The one-time payment to adapt Aeromunculus is more convenient than paying for the Mage pump again and again, but you don’t need to pump to necessarily get an attack in with the Mage either.
Ultimately, I sought the feedback of the Pauper Cube community. It was, to put it lightly, straightforward:
Frilled Oculus is another relic of the past. There’s many more tools for green-blue decks, and the Rootwalla effect of pumping mana just to block is a challenge early in the game. Applied Biomancy is a bounce spell that, like Growth Spiral, won’t be taken by other blue decks and comes with a bonus +1/+1 mode to turn it into a two-for-one, something sorely needed early in the game for ramp decks.
The Next Steps
We’ve added ten multicolor cards and cut ten colorless cards. We’ve reviewed blue-red and green-blue as archetypes, adjusting them to be clearer with a smoother play style. What needs reviewed next?
Going deep on both of those archetypes came at the request of Pauper Cube fans in the community Discord, and it’s there I’ll turn again for the next challenge. And we really don’t know what’s coming with War of the Spark, the upcoming spring Magic set. It could be even more multicolor, or it could be something entirely focused on hybrid mana. Maybe it’s what a “monocolored” Ravnica looks like.
In any case, I can’t wait to see what it brings!