Finally it’s here in all its complicated and strange glory. The first Committee directed Pauper Cube update has arrived on the heels of Throne of Eldraine. This update brings us two things, a good portion of new cards, but also some updates from older sets and a pretty large update to the gold section.
Throne of Eldraine is our second look at post-New World Order common complexity, following the announcement with War of the Spark and the (in Stybs’ own words) lighter update with Core Set 2020. The newly assembled Avengers Initiative Cube Committee members also get their first real chance at proving they can tweak the cube with nuanced, well-reasoned changes rather than a sledgehammer.
With this update we are introducing a new type of update. Cards will be mentioned as being on Probationary status. This means the changes are less certain, and come next Cube update, will be reviewed to see if they’re having beneficial results for players. If they aren’t the change will either be undone or a new inclusion will be added in their stead. This is for transparency for you to make sure it’s clear when something might not stay in for a long time.
|Ardenvale Tactician // Dizzying Swoop||Glint-Sleeve Artisan|
|Faerie Guidemother // Gift of the Fae||Loyal Pegasus|
|Trapped in the Tower||Compulsory Rest|
|Syndic of Tithes||Gold replacement|
|Witching Well||Clutch of Currents|
|Wicked Guardian||Slum Reaper|
|Read the Bones||Gold replacement|
|Merchant of the Vale // Haggle||Common Iguana|
|Scorched Rusalka||Mogg Fanatic|
|Thrill of Possibility||Honor the God-Pharaoh|
|Faithless Looting||Gold replacement|
|Rampaging Hippo||Baloth Gorger|
|Llanowar Elves||Gold replacement|
|Prophet of the Peak||Will-Forged Golem|
|1||0/0 Zombie Army||Honor the God-Pharaoh||Cut|
|1||1/1 Servo||Glint-Sleeve Artisan||Cut|
We try to avoid hyperbole, but this might be the best inclusion for the cube in the entire set by no small margin. Ardenvale Tactician // Dizzying Swoop is reasonably priced for both the front and back half of the effect. The Adventure lets you either tap down blockers or partially fog a combat step, and the body is a decent rate. Slam dunk, replaces Glint-Sleeve as it was a moderately interesting creature that was fine but rarely great.
Faerie Guidemother // Gift of the Fae has been on our radar since it was first spoiled. Suntail Hawk isn’t an exciting card on its own, especially in the late game. However attaching a pump effect that jumps your creature when this shows up late game is just great. Whether it winds up filling your one drop role or is a late game way to punch through, Guidemother feels great. Loyal Pegasus has almost double summoning sickness in needing another attacker, and generally felt like it provided fewer upsides.
Pacifism effects have always had a distinct weakness that the creature persists on the board and can be used as sacrifice fodder or to buffer your forces from edicts. Compulsory Rest had a built in way for the controller to get a bit of value, which wasn’t ideal. What was ideal is the mana cost, with 1 and 2 mana removal at a premium. Trapped in the Tower is coming in as a pacifism that while it is conditional doesn’t give the opponent free if negligible value.
We’re aware, this is a controversial one. People have likened Witching Well to Preordain with an Inspiration attached later. This is coming in over Clutch as a Probationary inclusion, so if it winds up being a bust we’ll be able to undo this one.
Slum Reaper looked like a solid inclusion in UMA. However as time has passed its starting to show specific play pattern weaknesses. Most notably the fact that by turn 4 your opponent is likely to have something they don’t mind sacrificing so much and upgrading your 1/1 to a 4/2 still doesn’t always mean it’s safe to attack with it. On top of that, there are very few decks in the vein of the old hexproof archetype that try to go all in on a few creatures that are vulnerable to this effect.Wicked Guardian either turns your small dorky creatures into card draw or pings something large enough to survive and cantrips. In that nightmare scenario where you topdeck one if these four-drops with an empty hand and empty board, Guardian’s enter the battlefield trigger includes a “may” and Slum Reaper is mandatory.
Common Iguana is one of many riffs on rummaging creatures the cube has tried over the past year. Merchant not only rummages, it can support spells matter cards as well as then coming down and being a repeatable way to filter through lands that you don’t need or even just dig to better quality cards. All over solid and a great inclusion.
We were stoked when Scorched Rusalka came up in discussion on the Discord. Mogg Fanatic has the upside of being a point of direct damage later in the game. Rusalka on the other hand turns every creature on the board into additional points of damage. Similar to Raid Bombardment, helping aggro decks get a bit more reach off of creatures that have been outclassed feels like a solid improvement.
Honor the God-Pharaoh Is a riff on now classic Tormenting Voice. However, the 1/1 body is really negligible in a lot of circumstances. On the other hand Thrill of Possibility swaps out the 1/1 for instant speed card draw in red. This feels like a solid upgrade over both options.
We wanted to like Vivien's Grizzly. We really did. This suffers from many of the same issues as Augur of Bolas and then some. Only seeing one card, only hitting exactly a creature, etc. It never did what it was intended to do: provide card advantage in green. Werebear and a friend are joining the cube again as low curve ramp dorks and we’re very excited.
The people have spoken and we have been convinced. Neither of Gorger’s modes are the peak of performance for midrange or ramp decks. While Colossal Dreadmaw was in the running, Rampaging Hippo‘s addition of cycling adds a bit of versatility that our eternal dino savior was missing.
Similar to Loyal Pegasus above, bonded construct seems like a solid deal but works out to be a bit slower than you might want a 2 powered 1 drop to be. Gingerbrute has proven to be a reasonable inclusion in retail limited, it gets out there, swings, and continues to be a mana sink to keep getting in for chip damage. Suiting this guy up with a Bonesplitter is the dream but even just slowly plinking in can be fine.
Will-Forged Golem has been the subject of a lot of fans ire as a boring card that underperforms. We’ve heard you! Prophet isn’t a slam dunk but the body being just large enough to tussle with the larger bodies in the cube barring the truly giant monsters as well as a reasonable ETB effect made this feel like a solid change for us.
Cantrips are great. Cloudkin Seer has proven to be a solid role player so we’ve decided to use one of the artifact slots to have a redundant version with slightly worse stats. While we’re not quite to the point of adding in Tome Raider, this effect has proven solid. Armillary Sphere isn’t proper ramp and in fact encourages the exact 5 color nonsense Stybs rallied so hard against in the past, and we feel strongly that this should be upheld
The Gold Problem
The Pauper Cube uses the multicolored cards to accomplish a few things: provide later picks for drafters that won’t be taken; provide effects and efficiencies not normally provided at common; and suggesting to drafters strategies that their color pair might succeed at within the cube. Unfortunately, many of our strategies lack ideal signpost cards.
Part of the problem, as we discussed with the community in both the State of the Cube chat and the Throne of Eldraine Q&A session, is that the power level across color pairs is radically different. When Black-Blue has Cavern Harpy and Dinrova Horror and White-Red can only muster the likes of Fresh-Faced Recruit, it is clear that drafters who commit to different color pairs will be unable to pick up equally potent effects with their gold cards. Omni asked how small the multicolored section for each color pair would need to be to feel roughly equal, and the pretty universal answer was “smaller than they currently are.” It is occasionally noted that too many late picks in drafts are gold cards that the drafter can’t actually play.
The smaller gold section encourages us to focus more on the signals and utility the remaining multicolor cards.
Hussar is a fine card. It also doesn’t signpost anything that Azorius wants to be doing. It doesn’t synergize well with flicker, it’s not a flier, while it’s a totally fine card in a vacuum, it’s getting the axe here.
Dimir is often cited as the color pair with the best gold cards, and it’s not wrong. Agent while flexible was the least interesting of the cards for the color pair and is being removed.
This is just a 4 mana Terminate a lot of the time. With the removal of the “technically common” lands, the best this can do is sometimes take your opponent off a greedy splash, other than that it’s just Terminate, and we don’t need that.
Marauders is a fine big dumb monster with some built in recursion. It’s not inspiring or particularly game ending, we’re cutting it.
3 mana 3/3s were good once upon a time. When they had upside they were pretty great. 3 life isn’t blowing anyone’s socks off, and the body isn’t either.
One of the harder decisions. Drinker got the axe due to being a CD costed creature that doesn’t signpost much of what Orzhov wants to do, and at least Kingpin's Pet has evasion.
The originator of this discussion. This card just doesn’t do much and folks aren’t a fan of it. Cutting this feels like all upside.
Simic has always struggled with its identity in the Cube. Biomancy was a neat combat trick but ultimately was a bit too narrow in the applications where it really shone to continue having a slot
Frostburn Weird was on the chopping block next to Goblin Electromancer and at the end of the day we felt that Electromancer was more interesting as a build around gold card. While it’s not a huge payoff it indicates one of the things that Izzet wants to do, as a result the cube gets a bit less Weird.
Youthful Knight just got reprinted and is strictly better than this. Recruit hasn’t been in long but his time has already come.
Additions to Replace Gold Cards
With 10 cards gone, we decided to return the cube to its former size of 419 cards. While some of us have expressed various levels of frustration with the cube being a prime number, it’s part of the charm and legacy of Stybs and it just felt right to do good by him in even a small way.
Fitting well into mono white and orzhov alike, the easier casting cost on this vs Tithe Drinker makes it both a familiar effect and one that’ll see slightly wider play.
This one is a bit of a stretch. Wizards has been pushing the “whenever you draw your second card” mechanic lately and we’re giving it a try. This is on probationary status to see how well it works out.
Read the Bones is a great card draw spell that helps ensure better card quality than many of the draw 2 lose 2 variants available to black over the years. We’re adding this as it has a solid track record and most black decks wouldn’t say no to it pretty much ever.
The bane of modern is finally arriving in The Pauper Cube! Looting, while technically card disadvantage, presents a sheer velocity of cards that made it a force to be reckoned with in constructed and we’re hoping it’ll find applications in the cube as well.
Elves and Werebear are getting back in on probationary status. We went with a 1 and 2 drop dork to try out the different flavors and if this experiment works out favorably, we may add more in the future.
The Next Steps
If you haven’t joined the Pauper Cube Discord you’re missing out: So many unique discussions around cards, themes, and archetypes happen daily. But better than that, it’s home to a wonderful community of supportive cube enthusiasts who offer great feedback for anyone’s ideas. The Pauper Cube wouldn’t be here without this community, and it’s a privilege to be host to it.
Until next set, we’d love to hear your feedback, and remember, kill your darlings.