Throne of Eldraine is the second non-Core set to enter Standard since Wizards announced its movement away from New World Order with the release of War of the Spark. It’s also the first set released where evaluation will be presented by the new Pauper Cube Committee rather than our friend and yours, Stybs (#WotCStaff).
Throne of Eldraine offers three new mechanics for consideration and evaluation, as well as some minor themes.
Yum Yum Eat ‘em Up
Food. Once again, we get a new token type. Food is an artifact subtype, which has an activated ability of “2, tap, sacrifice: you gain two life.” While most Food in the set is produced as tokens, some other artifacts have the Food subtype and ability. Compared to something like Shadow of Innistrad’s clues, they generally seem to not quite be the quality of drawing a card.
Three is Company, Too
Adamant. Adamant provides some benefit to a base spell when three (appropriate) mana of the same color is used to cast the spell. The benefits can vary, and appear on creatures, instants, and sorceries in Throne of Eldraine. We note that where Adamant appears on a creature, we don’t get the benefit when we flicker the creature.
Card Advantage is the Real Adventure
Adventures. Appearing on creatures, an Adventure is an instant or sorcery spell that can be cast instead of the creature. When you cast the Adventure, it has the properties of the instant or sorcery (relevant if you attempt to counter it using Remove Soul, and, if it resolves, the card goes to Exile. While in Exile (after resolving the Adventure), you can cast the creature. Similar to Flashback, this offers an opportunity for a two-for-one. Unfortunately, you can’t cast the creature if you discard it and use Gurmag Angler’s delve to Exile it.
Good Knights and Oh the Humanity
Not too far removed from Ixalan, Throne of Eldraine takes another crack at tribal benefits. Equipment might have cheaper equip costs if the target is a Knight, or an Adventure might look at the number of Knights in play when resolving. While we have a small number of Knights in The Pauper Cube at present, tribal synergies are unlikely to break in at present. Further, several cards in the set care about creature types, with a focus on humans versus non-humans.
Throne of Eldraine has a small number of artifacts with colored mana costs. While not a new mechanic, or even a focus of the set, they warrant consideration because, at present, the cube offers relatively few ways to remove a non-creature artifact.
Eldraine cards for consideration
Darrell: The flying body is better than Shadow Glider, which was in the Cube as recently as the Shadows Of Innistrad update. Blinding Beam is playable when you only get the tapping effect.
Mike: This feels like an easy inclusion. Both halves are very close to being on rate on their own, which for me is a great sign for a modal card. I like that this both helps your fliers get in if they’re struggling while adding to your air force later in the game.
D: The Suntail Hawk fail case isn’t exciting, but is serviceable enough. Drawing Guidemother later as a buff and potentially double-spelling into a backup threat or blocker feels like a slam dunk.
M: I love a Suntail Hawk with upside. The upside of this letting one of your big creatures dodge chump blocks if ripped late game is exactly the type of adventure I want to see. Casting this on turn 1 or turn 7 are gonna both likely feel solid.
D: I really want to like this. And in a set with trinket artifacts, like treasure, clues, and food, flying likely happens enough to merit inclusion. But a White-X aggro deck that hopes to play Flutterfox on turn 2 with Rancor on turn 3 will attack with a 2/2 on the ground much more often. We have Stormfront Pegasus and Mistral Charger already.
M: On top of various pegasi, we also have Leonin Skyhunter which while moderately harder to cast, is the success case for this all the time. I was excited to see this but came down off it pretty quickly.
D: Vigilant knight tokens have been growing on me since Dominaria. I very much want to test this out. Not being great as a flicker target hurts the unicorn, but final judgement will have to wait until I play with it a few times. Baseline comparison: squad captain.
M: I just can’t help but feel like the back half of this is a miserable situation. I want to like this but it’s gonna take some convincing.
D: As conditional removal during combat goes, this is one of white’s better options. Scaling as the game goes on, and in a manner that benefits from white’s ability to make tokens. As Discord user Louis put it:
The thing that might keep this out of the cube is actually being a little too cute.
M: I don’t think this is too cute personally. It doesn’t require a huge amount of creatures to kill most of the cube, and the attacking/blocking clause is kinda trinket text. I love this as it’s probably the closest impression of Swords to Plowshares anytime soon.
D: First of all, I’m super annoyed that a squire isn’t a 1/2. Second, this is one of those adventures where the cost is a half mana too high, and the creature is maybe on par. The creature costing less than the adventure makes it more likely that I’ll cast the creature before getting to use the adventure, and thus miss out on the full value of the card. It feels just under playable in the abstract, and I think it will be.
M: This is another one that’s super close and hard to tell if the juice is worth the squeeze here. My gut says it’s just slightly overcosted but I could be easily convinced either way.
D: White’s enchantment based removal has primarily been Pacifism variants. Two more conditional ones are Bonds of Faith, which cannot stop opposing humans, and Compulsory Rest, which allows activated abilities and an opportunity for your opponent to gain life. Not stopping fliers is a hefty downside, but Trapped deserves some strong consideration to replace or supplant one of them.
M: I’ve never been a fan of Compulsory Rest myself, and would love to see this in its place. The downside would be worse if this was removal in a color that didn’t have almost half the fliers in the cube.
D: Another variant on Claustrophobia. I won’t recommend making the change for the sake of making a change, but if the new art tickles your fancy, grab one.
M: Personally as both a fan of the new art and a completionist I’ll definitely grab one but I don’t think this is making the cut for the cube.
D: Blue and Red picked up a “second card drawn” matters theme in Modern Horizons, and while it hasn’t quite got enough support, the quick return suggests that WotC values this flavor of spells matter effect. It’s easier to trigger during combat as a blue player, and while buffing feels odd, the ability deserves consideration. I don’t know that this comes in this update, but if we get another set worth of support, this is a payoff I’ll want to have on hand.
M: I like the color with the most evasion and card draw getting a way to make use of this thing that rewards evasion and drawing cards. Hard to find cuts for this but I want to try anyways.
D: Blue’s three drop slot is maybe the most crowded in the cube, but Queen has the benefit of supporting a spells-matter archetype and being a great self-bounce target in a long attrition game. 2/3 is a fair enough body against tokens, and tapping down one or more big creatures from a Green-X ramp deck is going to feel great if I can ever pull it off.
M: A recent discussion in the Discord reminded me about the sheer density of bounce effects stapled to creatures. This feels like it’s worth testing as a way to support spells matter and tempo while still playing into the self-bounce options in the cube. I’ve always been a fan of Frost Lynx effects and this being a riff on that makes it alright in my opinion
M: Lara Croft jokes aside, we’ve talked about including Skyscanner in the past, and this is probably the worst variant of this 3 mana evasive cantripping class, but I’m inclined to say this is a potential inclusion.
D: I can see the logic for including this, certainly, and the density of the effect makes “draw your second card” more likely to trigger. I’ll keep one on hand, but I think it will end up like Soaring Show-Off – on the sidelines. Let me know if WotC prints three or four more “second card” payoffs.
M: this is roughly Preordain + Inspiration. The catch is it’s a preordain that always draws you an inspiration. I think this is super solid for controlling decks and ramp decks alike.
D: scry 2 is one of Stybs’s favorite lines of rules text (see discussion of Faerie Seer: http://thepaupercube.com/2019/06/18/the-modern-horizons-pauper-cube-update/ ). Scry by itself isn’t normally worth a card in the cube, but stapled onto another effect or body, it gets the green light. I keep thinking of the Well as an overcosted one drop with an aftermath fairly costed Inspiration. I can’t convince myself without playing it that this is enough. Absent Seeker of the Way‘s prowess trigger or an artifacts matter theme, I’m very cold on the well.
M: I really think that undervalues this card for midrange to slower blue decks. The setup cost is minimal, and initial return is minimal, but being able to cash this in on a turn where it counts is a huge upside.
D: Drawing a card is fine. Choosing the dead creature or creatures you get and in which order? Also fine. Not spectacular, though. This feels like a card that I’ll keep in my on deck binder for a year and never actually call up to the cube.
M: I was happy when Gravepurge style effects fell out of favor for things like Soul Salvage. This feels like a step backwards. While the lowered mana cost certainly helps, the lack of instant speed means this always gets back one thing, then you’re waiting on the rest. I’m not sold on this as a way for black to accrue late-game value
D: The Equip cost on Giant’s Skewer is hefty compared to Vulshok Morningstar. I’m not sure if creating Food tokens for dealing combat damage to creatures is going to be great. This feels like a color-shifted Moldervine Cloak, which might be more palatable.
M: I love equipment with mild upsides, but I think that the less important half of Sword of Light and Shadow with additional mana requirements AND needing this to be blocked isn’t doing it for me.
M: Scry 2 feels like the hidden 4th mechanic of the set. Is this equivalent to Phyrexian Rager? I don’t quite think so despite the wisdom that Scry 2 is approximately equal to drawing a card.
D: I waffled on whether to include Legion in my list. The body isn’t one we’re currently featuring in black, but scry shouldn’t be overlooked. I’m still waffling, but unenthused.
M: This seems solid. The fact this can shunt damage onto either something that isn’t going to die or upcycle a useless token make me want to play this. The 4/2 stat line means this mean stepmother is going to be crashing in for big chunks of life in addition to providing card advantage.
D: My eyes kept skipping past the guardian during previews. Similarly statted Slum Reaper has escaped the chopping block at least once, as it’s ETB trigger can be a trap that leaves the caster out of luck. Drawing a card, even at the cost of one of your X/2s, probably deserves more respect.
D: Continuing with the “when you draw your second card” clause, Wolverine makes Merchant of the Vale // Haggle, Common Iguana, Faithless Looting, and Fists of Flame feel more appealing. We’re still missing some pieces that can make UR a clear “Spells Matter” color pair, but we’re getting closer to having tools that incidentally support other archetypes.
M: If the “draw a second card” mechanic (which has yet to find itself a catchy name) continues to show up, I think this is the type of archetype we could look into supporting.
M: I really like this. I think being able to grant everything a small boost and haste the turn it comes in is nice. I might be overvaluing that but this has been pretty hard to deal with in my experience with it.
D: I don’t think you’re out of bounds here. This isn’t Rancor, but a power boost is non-negligible, and haste makes curve toppers in a mid-long game more appealling.
M: This might get pushed out by a slightly later entry on this list, but this pseudo-fires style effect seems worth considering at the very least.
D: The easiest comparisons are the similarly costed Burning-Tree Vandal and Azra Bladeseeker. Earlier filtering, triggering Burning Prophet and Thunder Drake incidentally insofar as UR spells matter exists, and providing late game protection against mana flood in RG makes Merchant feel like a slam dunk.
M: Agreed, also cases like holding up this and Lightning Bolt feels great. Instant speed feels huge here, but the “fail case” being a card filtering 2/3 is not much of a fail case at all.
D: Dynacharge is playable without overloading, so the adventure is playable. A 3/1 that can’t block aligns with red’s general aggressive bent in the cube. Unaided, this clears your opponent’s Omenspeaker or other 1/3 roadblock, which can clear the way for your tokens. I’m interested in seeing whether the knight feels more like a creature itself or two removal spells.
M: Love this in all its modes. This thing is top to bottom an aggro card, and while it dies to most of the tokens in the cube I like the fact it likely will have effected the board before it even gets cast as a creature
D: Tormenting Voice is probably good enough but isn’t in the Cube right now. Instant speed makes this a very strong contender, as does the ability to bring Thrill in the same update as Bloodhaze Wolverine.
M: I love a super rummage effect, Tormenting Voice has always been a favorite of mine and seeing it at instant speed feels great. I also like this for seeding a potential “draw 2” archetype if that comes to fruition.
D: The day this was previewed, Discord user Y2Krj did a quick back-of-the-envelope calculation to find 95 one or two drops in the cube, with 70 producing non-Human creatures. 2/2 creatures for one seems fine, and not having a downside like Nettle Sentinel seems fine as well. Is this really better than a 1/2 for G with upside in a non-aggro deck, like Loam Dryad or Crossroads Consecrator, though?
M: I think having cards that are simply aggressive is fine, this getting paired with a Rancor and Young wolf for example feels like it’s putting a real clock on in the early game, and late game the 2/2 body is more relevant than just a 1/1 dork or similar.
D: Green aggro is spread between undercosted monsters, recursive threats, and go-wide tokens. The longer I look at the Tracker, the more I wonder if the undercosted monsters need more one drops.
D: This is a fun adventure that I’m always excited to cast into a reasonable body later in the game. I’ll be happy to open these at the Throne of Eldraine Prerelease, but enabling five color nonsense so soon after joining the Committee is not why I’m here. A regretful pass, from me, despite my affection for the card.
M: Even as the resident 5 color dumpster advocate I don’t love this. I think it’s a bit too slow to be effective, I like the idea of this but the number just aren’t right.
D: 4/4 with trample and trinket text is a solid rate. Runner5678 in the Discord originally compared this to Peema Outrider. Trample likely puts them on even footing. I feel better about Witchstalker against evasion-less big beaters Baloth Gorger or Imperiosaur.
M: I want to keep gorger as a reward for ramp decks actually getting to 8. Imperiosaur has probably seen its day, though.
D: The body of the wall is technically fine, and for a slower deck in Throne of Eldraine draft, I’m sure it will have a place. Repetitively giving creatures haste is potentially valuable, even at the cost of using the Drawbridge as an actual blocker, but I can’t figure out what deck would rather have this than a two drop with haste or a 1/3 that can pick off a few tokens on its own. I think this is a pass for the cube.
M: I kinda like this but it feels a bit off for me, there’s a lot of sweet options here, but none of them seem more than just “neat”. Being able to activate abilities immediately, neat. Turning on a wave of new attackers, neat. Not sure they’re enough to justify this.
D: A reason to discuss food. The food text is incidental, I think. Gingerbrute reminds me of Bottle Gnomes, which I’ve usually found serviceable in defensive grindy decks. Haste and evasion early are worth consideration, a mid game sacrifice might buy the turn your deck needs to close the game out. I’m willing to try it, but I know this isn’t essential.
M: I think this is actually super spicy. It’s a raging goblin in colorless that as the game goes gets a form of evasion that basically says “this is unblockable”. On top of that if they leave something back to block it you conned them into not being the aggro and are doing fine. Also slap a Bonesplitter or rancor on this and it’s real tough to do anything about in combat.
D: 5/5 for six mana is a fair body for an artifact creature, if unexciting. Scry 2 when you have six mana plays very differently than varying on turns one and two. I can imagine this being the 18th card in my ramp deck or the 24th card in my control deck. I’m not sure Prophet is the finisher either type of deck needs another of, yet, but maybe prerelease weekend will tell me more.
M: I like this as a fail case for rampy and slower decks both. 5/5 is the magic stat line where it starts to become very difficult to deal with without 2 for 1 ing yourself. Given recent comments concerning some of the more lackluster bodies/ effects in the artifact section of the cube, this feels like it could at least sneak in for testing/
D: The 5/7 body for 7 generic is technically at rate, according to analogous cards. The activated ability and defender mean this artifact creature is only a beater for dedicated ramp decks, but even activated it’s so far behind the two biggest Eldrazi that I think my ramp deck is never satisfied to have it, by comparison.
M: if the activated ability was remotely cheaper I’d consider this, but a 7/7 that locks down your Mana every turn feels pretty miserable with the high quality of removal.
D: The inversion of Serrated Arrows feels a touch weaker in comparison. Sorcery speed activation won’t help trick your opponent during combat, and removal is generally stronger than creature buffs. But recent additions to the cube have added a few extra creatures with persist, which could help Weapon Rack shine. I’m definitely grabbing one.
M: Sorcery speed only kills this for me. I think this is a touch too slow to really make an impact. Still eager to discuss this parallel to a classic card.
M: I think these will generally be a bit too slow to be on most of the time. The most interesting of the bunch is definitely Mystic Sanctuary for the niche interaction with Deprive, but is a hard lock counterspell cycle a thing we want to encourage? I would recommend picking up most of these if you want to have them on hand in the future though.
D: The full cycle of lands encourage or reward warped mana bases when the cube otherwise prioritizes two-color decks. The triggers are worth playing, but the opportunity cost feels problematic if one is played before the 4th land. Pauper Cube variants playing Farseek instead of Un-card Selfie Preservation might enjoy being able to fetch some of these lands, but the untapped clause remains a limit. Deprive and Kor Skyfisher create some late game opportunities, but wouldn’t you rather do something else with those bounces?