It’s been the preview season that never ends! Core Set 2020 was fully revealed, so it’s time to take a look at a much more reasonable set of Magic card that might make the Pauper Cube.
Dawning Angel has tough competition at the five-drop slot in white. The combination of solid life gain, flying, and power makes it close but almost certainly not quite. This is a good example of how many of the new commons are in the set: Just on the edge but not enough to make the leap. (However, every set not being as strong as War of the Spark and Modern Horizons is a good thing!)
Squad Captain is an interesting creature to consider. There aren’t really any top-of-the-curve payoffs for token decks in white, but without an army in play this creature is way too weak to consider. That said, the fact it’s a replacement ability (“enters the battlefield with”) rather than triggered ability means it’s safe to play into some removal spells. This is an excellent candidate for testing to see if it pays off well enough.
Boreal Elemental is another 3/4 flying for five mana with a bonus ability. Wizards seems to have found the sweet spot for this kind of card, and the ability to resist targeted removal is handy when there’s so much to go around. I think card filtering and drawing is more powerful in the abstract, but this is a solid consideration for adjusting the texture of blue creatures in the cube.
Octoprophet might be the Octodad we need for the cube. A 3/3 for four isn’t amazing, but it isn’t shabby either. I’ve shared on Discord on how “scry 2” is my favorite ability stapled onto anything, so it makes sense this combination is something I like. That said, it’s also among the weakest “common blue creatures with scry 2” printed recently. When we can get it on flying or a 1/4 a turn earlier do we need our eight-armed scrying sea savior?
I didn’t know Divination was ready to be obsolete, but Winged Words is the way to do it. Right now there are at least 43 cards that can having something with flying in play for you. What’s tough is that Divination by itself is just ok, but at two mana it’s excellent. Does blue need a little more raw card draw?
Audacious Thief kind of looks like Phyrexian Rager if you turn your head a little. The potential payoff is higher (attack multiple turns!) but the immediate benefit is much lower. And unlike the riot-flavored version in red, lacking haste leaves this Thief out in the cold for a full turn cycle.
Boneclad Necromancer makes a token. It’s five mana for a total of 5 power and 5 toughness. My only wish is that it wasn’t double black. There’s definitely room to tweak the five-drop slot in the cube.
Once we added sacrifice themes to black and red, it was pointed out how well Act of Treason would play with those outlets. It’s a great time to bring back a classic.
Flying Goblins have a long history in red, mostly as a waste of time and expensive mana sink. Daggersail Aeronaut looks much better as it’s fine for power-to-mana cast ratio and gives flying for free when you want it. Red has tough competition in creatures, but a good flying Goblin seems fun. (Compare to Goblin Bird-Grabber which is clunky, conditional, and mana intensive!)
Goblin Smuggler is a 2/2 for three with haste. That alone used to be solid enough rate for red creatures in the cube, but times have changed. Fortunately so have how sets are designed. The Smuggler is a great combo piece for decks that want to attack with something small for another benefit, or set up Phyrexian Ghoul smashing for a billion damage. I’m not necessarily convinced, but I like how this fills neatly into both an on-the-curve-out role and black-red sacrifice deck role.
Ripscale Predator was downshifted from an uncommon in Gatecrash. It’s big and slow, but an attractive use of menace if you and get it going. I don’t think red wants it, but seeing downshifted cards is always a treat.
Wildfire Elemental is a creature not in Core Set 2020 booster packs. It’s part of the red Planeswalker deck and fixed in a quantity of four. What I like about this creature is how it subtly shifts the use of burn, and how that plays out with red’s go-wide aggro strategy. Burning your opponent for a few points and setting up an impressive attack is a powerful synergy that doesn’t exist anywhere else at common, plus it turns burn spells into brain-busting combat tricks. These unique types of cards are pillars pushing the power of the cube in interesting way.
Ferocious Pup is adorable. I’ll admit: The idea of bouncing a smol doggo around to get chonky 2/2 Wolf tokens is appealing. But the realistic case is that this underperforms existing three-drops like Yavimaya Sapherd. That doesn’t change the fact this is a good boy who deserves all the belly rubs.
Silverback Shaman is big! It has trample! It draws a card when your opponent inevitably kills it! I don’t think this is an exciting creature, but the mana cost for the total upside is appealing.
Heart-Piercer Bow is another downshift to common from a previous set, and as cheap equipment goes it’s more appealing than most of what we’ve seen recently. Putting this ability on something with flying is obviously nice, but deathtouch and first strike creatures can make combat even harder for opponent. The cube is a 419 cards, but a round 420 might finally make folks in Discord happy. (Edit: I, like everyone else, misreads Heart-Piercer to have the creature deal damage when it’s the artifact itself. Given it’s not a combo with deathtouch and, therefore, far weaker than Viridian Longbow we’re not gonna 420 YOLO this one.)
Reprints for Foils
Need some cards in foil for your cube? Core Set 2020 is loaded with plenty of reprints for you to track down!