Guilds of Ravnica is here, bringing half the guilds and color pairs a few goodies. First, let’s hit what the mechanics look like for the Pauper cube.
Surveil is a straightforward twist on scry. When you “surveil n” you look at the top n cards of your library, then choose to put any number back on top in any order and the rest into your graveyard. Scry is a strong draw smoothing effect, and surveil is similar enough to matter in the same way. The trick is whether there are cards that care about being in the graveyard, or give us value once they’re there. Flashback is probably the best pair with surveil effects.
Convoke returns for like the fifth time or whatever, and as always it’s a great mechanic for token strategies. Sitting firmly in green-white means any efficient-looking convoke cards get supercharged if the effect is right for the cube.
Jump-start is flashback with a twist: Now it’s always the same mana cost but you have to discard a card. This mechanic is still great, but much more conditional to consider. Discarding a card isn’t the worst cost, but it’s the when that matters. The repeat effect has to be solid enough to want a second copy of the card.
Undergrowth is “cards about the number of creatures in your graveyard” and joins surveil in making me look silly for giving up on “graveyard matters” as a theme across blue-black-green in the cube. Since green is still loaded with creatures, any reasonable creature with some bonus based on undergrowth can be very good.
Mentor is awkward as it’s an attack trigger where one attacking creature will put a +1/+1 counter on another attacking creature with less power.
- You need to have multiple attacking creatures, which isn’t the hardest with tokens.
- You need an attacking creature with less power than the mentor creature.
- You want the highest power mentor available so you can potentially get multiple +1/+1 counters.
- You need to keep the mentor alive and attacking to add up.
Mentor is so conditional my worry is that it won’t be efficient enough in the Pauper cube where there is way more removal than in Guilds of Ravnica.
First Pass Cards
With an eye on exciting potential, this isn’t a perfect pass at what will make the update but what looks good enough to look at closer. Don’t forget to share what you think I got right—and what you think I missed—by hitting me up on Twitter or in the Pauper Cube Discord community.
Hunted Witness is a one-drop that leaves a valuable token behind when it dies. Aggressive while slotting into token decks and black’s new sacrifice theme puts this as an easy slam dunk.
Dimir Informant is pretty similar to Sailor of Means in terms of gameplay, but much better at finding an advantage for the player using it. Omenspeaker was a celebrated swap last update, and if that power is anything to go by this too would make a strong addition.
Passwall Adept is a creature a few in the Discord community got excited about. A 1/3 for two mana isn’t the worst rate for being defensive, and the ability to make the biggest creatures unblockable would be a boon for the blue-green ramp decks. This is an interesting card to puzzle out.
Radical Idea is close to Think Twice, but I don’t think it’s close enough. Think Twice hasn’t been in the cube in years, and I don’t see the less-card-advantaged flavor-of-the-month working here, but maybe I’ll find a radical idea that will change my mind.
Vedalken Mesmerist is another card the Discord seemed to like, though “aggro blue” still feels like a fevered dream for the cube. A blue creature that helps in combat isn’t that rare (see Aerial Guide) but as a 2/1 this is fair rate. But “blue aggro” just… isn’t really a thing by itself, and evasion really helps blue creatures shine in combat.
Watcher in the Mist is just the surveil flavor of Cloudreader Sphinx. The hype on surveil is high right now, but “slightly better than scry in some specific scenarios” shouldn’t be the deciding factor in whether the crowed “value blue five-drop” slot gets an update. (And the Sphinx is easier to cast…)
We still don’t need more one-drop deathtouch creatures in black, but Hired Poisoner is a functional additional copy if that’s something you needed for your cube.
Mephitic Vapors combines two kinds of effects that get discussed regularly for the cube: Giving creatures -1/-1 until the end of turn (“token sweeper”) and card selection. Nausea and Shrivel are situational, but I haven’t heard that 1/1 tokens are so problematic for black that more sweepers are needed. Pestilence, Crypt Rats and Evincar's Justice all do a ton of work for black-and-something control decks already.
Severed Strands is Bone Splinters with life gain, which is actually interesting to consider longer than “well Splinters isn’t in the cube so whatever.” Gaining life is really powerful for Pestilence and Crypt Rats decks, so cashing in a creature to surefire kill something big and gain some life too is interesting.
Cosmotronic Wave is like Mephitic Vapors: It can clear out a ton of tokens and staples on a powerful effect. It popped up in the Discord, and since this only hits opponents’ creatures it stands out a bit more than things like Barrage of Boulders (conditional) and Ember Gale (too narrow in effect).
Quick: What’s the difference between Direct Current and Firebolt? If you said “you need a little more red mana and an extra card for Direct Current” then you nailed it. When I first saw Current I thought it was the worst. Then I ran the number and it’s much closer than I assumed. Red doesn’t want extra lands, and turning it into 2 more damage is super relevant.
How do you get rid of Wall of Roots when it’s too small to block? Portcullis Vine is one way, though I waiting to be able to activate it is rough. Blocking and drawing a card when your opponent attacks next turn would be nice for ramp decks but I think this comes online too slow to be any card selection.
Artful Takedown is removal. It’s an instant. It’s even a sneaky tempo trick! But at four mana and competing against Agony Warp and other powerful blue-black cards I have trouble seeing this find a home.
Whisper Agent is a super-charged Hired Blade with surveil attached. It’s awesome, and looks much more likely to make the grade in blue-black than it’s Takedown sibling. The real issue is that blue-black isn’t lacking for powerful cards already in the cube!
Rosemane Centaur is a reasonable rate for a 4/4 with vigilance, but powering this out on the third turn isn’t unreasonable with any of the two-drop token-making cards in green and white. That is where the power of this Centaur shines, but is that what token decks really want to do?
There are a ton of cards that Sumala Woodshaper can find in a white-green cube deck. With most of white’s removal being Auras and the threat of Rancor always looming in green, Woodshaper could be the right kind of card advantage for those colors. It’s time to break out some hypergeometric distribution!
Hypothesizzle hits bigger creatures than Cunning Strike while still replacing itself, but doubles as a full price Gush or Thoughtcast in a pinch. I don’t think the removal side is really needed or the raw card draw side is efficient enough, but together it might be better than Cunning Strike.
Pitiless Gorgon kills more things than Rendclaw Trow, but “yet another deathtouch creature” probably isn’t what black-green needs at the moment. Grisly Salvage is quite beyond it’s usefulness now, but there’s also other black-green options to consider in Guilds of Ravnica.
Rhizome Lurcher gets bigger the later in the game you play it. It’s in colors where you can play to put more creatures into the graveyard. I really like that this rewards playing into an archetype so well without any chance to being sniped early in the draft.
Undercity Uprising is a removal spell. It’s a devastating combat step set up. It’s both in one card. I’m stunned by the quality of black-green multicolor commons in Guilds of Ravnica, which is a refreshing change from our last visit.
As a bonus, Guilds of Ravnica also brings a few reprints for cards already in the cube. If you’ve been looking for a foil copy of any of these cards you can expect to pick them up much easier after the new set releases.