2019 was an eventful year for The Pauper Cube. Among other notable occurrences, we saw Wizards of the Coast produce the first set aimed to impact Modern while bypassing Standard completely, and the higher power level that entailed. War of the Spark, the conclusion to years of a Nicol Bolas story and the intersection of his machinations with the Gatewatch, freed us from the limitations of New World Order for complexity at common. We saw our first standalone standard set after the move away from blocks, and welcomed a variety of new mechanics. And the progenitor of our favorite Pauper Cube took a position as #wotcstaff, leaving our community in the untested hands of the new cube committee.
As we reflect on the year, committee member Phizzled asked the rest of the committee to reflect on their personal highlights from 2019.
Favorite set of the year:
Phizzled: The set of the year for me was War of the Spark. While Modern Horizons had a higher power level and included a few more slam dunk cards than War of the Spark, the shift away from NWO was dramatic and exciting. New removal spell Ob Nixilis's Cruelty and small Man-o-War (that incidentally triggers prowess) Callous Dismissal both gave me hope that WotC might offer us some exciting options to shake the Cube up in the coming standard sets, and the rest of the year lived up to that promise.
Yunra: I have to go with Modern Horizons on this one, having had the opportunity to draft this and coming out of the drafts with two pretty sweet tribal decks i couldn’t be happier. Tribal decks is something i really like to build and try to find the synergy inside the tribe. What do they like to do? Ninjas and Slivers played very different to each other but were really fun to play. Drafting tribal decks is rarely viable in a standard set so its fun to take the opportunity when i can get it. War of the Spark is my choice of the standard legal sets due to its interactions and new fun planeswalkers on uncommon.
Omniczech: This is a hard one out the gate, the latter half of the year is full of all time greats in terms of power level. I think that Throne of Eldraine takes the cake despite not being the most out and out powerful of the offerings this year. Adventure is a great mechanic, the carry through of the increased power level at common that debuted in War of the Spark made for some great limited cards.
Favorite new card of the year:
P: While I’ve been giddy about the Adventure mechanic (and Ardenvale Tactician, specifically) for months, my favorite card of the year was actually Eyekite, from Modern Horizons. The “second card drawn this turn” mechanic hasn’t appeared on many commons, but has appeared in both Modern Horizons and Throne of Eldraine. Offering a different and less linear mechanism than prowess or storm to reward players (especially in Blue-Red decks) for casting spells is, well, exciting. The existence of such rewards made cards like Faithless Looting, Merchant of the Vale // Haggle, and Opt means to victory rather than merely treading water. Eyekite, helpfully, rewards the second card drawn without a trigger or memory issue, which is a cherry on top.
Y: I love green, both as the color itself and what it does in Magic. So that is why i have to say that my new favorite card from 2019 was Nightpack Ambusher and how it impacted the way i play and think. When i saw this card, i started trying to fit it into some standard deck in MTG Arena but it just wouldn’t fit the way i wanted it to with the way i played. After a while i saw that people had started experimenting with a simic flash deck, full of counters and interaction, only playing on the opponent’s turn. I generally don’t like playing counters but i was willing to give this a go and i have never played as much Arena or made so many tweaks to a deck before as i have to Simic Flash and i was really happy to see that the deck finally saw some competitive play in the last Mythic Championship. I guess i like counterspells now?
O: Gingerbrute. I’ve spoken elsewhere, but this is the poster child for additive distraction as well as a card being greater than the sum of its parts. It’s one of the best aggro 1 drops, fitting in any deck, only costing 1 generic mana, having an alternate defensive mode, it really has it all. I love this silly little candy monster and I’m happy to put it in any cube I own.
Saddest darling lost of the year:
P: It’s barely a darling, but shortly before Driver of the Dead left the cube, I drafted an Orzhov deck that allowed me infinite Kor Skyfishers to block my opponent’s green 4/4s. Driver was the most limited Gravedigger left in the cube, but I also used to love drafting Corpse Hauler and Pit Keeper.
Y: I don’t dwell too long on cards that are leaving the cube, i like that it evolves and never stay the same. Sure, some cards are more fun than others and i can miss them but i generally think it’s a good idea to make room for new exciting cards. With that said, Gray Merchant of Asphodel stands out as a card i miss playing.
O: Gray Merchant takes the cake as an iconic “common that shouldn’t have been”. I don’t think it meshed well with a lot of the cube, and cutting it was correct, but on sheer power level it will be missed.
How did you feel about 2019?
As always, we look forward to hearing from you in the Discord. What were your favorites of 2019?