The first of two innistrad sets has arrived, bringing with it the smells of autumnal harvest season and bafflingly, wet dog? This one of two is marked by the focus on werewolves as well as many of Innistrad’s iconic mechanics. We’ve got classics like Graveyard Matters, Flashback and Double faced cards, with the addition of Coven, Disturb, a new way to handle werewolves as well as the new more temporary “decayed” tokens. Let’s look at what the keywords are before delving into the new cards being considered for The Pauper Cube.
Coven: Coven essentially adds an extra benefit for a spell or ability when you control three creatures with different power. Flavorfully, it seems to reflect different creatures joining together to be more powerful, but it can definitely create some memory issues.
Double-Faced Cards: This trip to Innistrad features the old school approach to double faced cards, which (mostly) are cast for the mana cost on their front face and transform as the result of some condition. A few cards have an alternate cost (on their front side) to enter transformed directly.
Disturbed: Essentially, what would be the casting cost to play the backside of some of the double faced cards. Disturb costs can only be cast when the card is in the graveyard already. The Disturbed version of a card exiles itself when it leaves the battlefield, so no infinite mana shenanigans.
Flashback: We’ve had one spell, yes, but what about second spell? Flashback is old hat, at this point. It appears on instants and sorceries and allows the spell to be cast a second time (while exiling the spell) from the graveyard.
Decay: Decay is a marker or ability that appears on tokens generated by many cards. Decayed creatures can’t block, and are sacrificed at the end of combat when they attack. They are fragile and incentivize aggression, but also can be used to double-dip for certain aristocrats strategies.
Omniczech: A non-zero amount of people whose opinions on cube I trust have said they’re bullish on this.I worry that defender vs a full pacifism isn’t really removal in a format like Pauper cube.
Phizzled: I like the versatility of Candletrap, but I honestly think the two mana pacifisms are so much more powerful that the potential memory issues from coven to get the “full” use from it. One mana is a big difference from two, but when we see these powerful by limited cheap pieces of removal i have to ask: what early threat are we worried about getting out of hand before white has a second mana?
Omniczech: I’m all about this one, the fact this has flash and can act as removal for the harder to deal with permanent types make this a reasonable facsimile of modern era Vindicate style effects. I’m a big fan of this and hope we can just put this in.
Phizzled: I think I fully agree. It will be rare that you’ll flash this in just to kill an artifact or enchantment, but the human soldier is a swiss army knife for messing with combat math and setting up surprise swings. This isn’t the most glamorous card for White decks, but I don’t think it has to be.
Phizzled: If you’re in a bad spot when you cast this (or blink it), you end up with a 3/4 for 4 mana in White. If you already have two creatures without summoning sickness, this adds as much power to the board as Gallant Cavalry. I don’t think that’s super exciting, without another keyword, but I think the Silversmith might feel like a pretty good four-drop in retail limited, and I’m interested to find out if I’m right.
Omniczech: I know we passed on Basri's Acolyte on release and while there’s slight differences between these two takes on the effect, It might be worth revisiting the counters oriented version of “Army in a can”
Phizzled: I feel compelled to bring this up because of the comparison that can be made to Travel Preparations. This never requires the off-color mana, and vigilance is often less appealing than going really wide with +1/+1 counters for your team, but this technically supports our Selesnya plan and facilitates spells-matter decks. I think it’s sufficiently less exciting than Travel Prep that I don’t expect to talk about this much during Q&A, though.
Omniczech: This is so minimal for what it does, but this is functionally a splittable bear that grants an evergreen keyword twice. I think this might be good? This is for sure one of the more interesting options out there.
Omniczech: I said that we’d get upgrades to Priest of Ancient Lore pretty quickly. I didn’t expect this so soon or so much better. If you swing in with just ONE creature this is already an improvement over Phyrexian Rager, and if you manage to do any more you’re feeling great about this. Absolute slam dunk for the cube.
Phizzled: That second toughness means a lot. I don’t think I’m ever going to be excited to pay a full 4 mana, but there will be some board states where this follows Raise the Alarm and is just “bear, draw a card” and that’s nothing to sneeze at.
Omniczech: I love upgrades to already good cards. As we’ve discussed many times in the official discord, Surveil, whether keyworded or not, is generally just better than scrying. This isn’t likely to replace Opt but rather be in there to compliment it.
Phizzled: This is a very good cantrip. The only thing to talk about, really, is if we can construct hypotheticals where we need to discuss if this is good enough to play when we run Opt and friends.
Omniczech: This is really testing the “Wind Drake with upside is good” theory I’ve tossed around in the past. I am not sold on decayed zombies as more than incidental upside in colors that don’t want to just sac some bodies for value. I’m not a fan but I get the appeal.
Phizzled: This reads as “just fine” in our non-tempo blue decks. Decay was a real cost in the two prerelease paper games I got to play. The 1/1 tokens that can block with the two current three drop token makers in Blue are more appealing for more decks, which I think hurts the calculus.
Phizzled: At three mana, this is less appealing than some of our other counterspells, though the cost is easier to splash. The token can’t be used as a combat trick on defense, which hurts. I really want to counter something happening during an alpha strike and be allowed to block. The counter has no conditions, and four extra mana might as well be Cancel, but I still am worried this is more likely to kill me than save me. Am I undervaluing the usefulness of the decayed tokens?
Omniczech: I just am not sold on this as a counterspell. 4 mana is enough to basically read “Counter Target Spell” but the bonus here is a blockable Shock and I’m just not sold on that being a equivalent to some of the other minimal upside 3 mana counters out there.
Omniczech: I want to like a recyclable flyer. I really do, but this feels really expensive on the back end and just fine on the front. I get the appeal, I really do, but the numbers are just off for me personally.
Phizzled: The disturbed cards looked interesting, but are all very fairly costed. Losing power on the back-end is a major negative. I’m inclined to pass on this.
Omniczech: I saw this mentioned and while it’s a strict upgrade on Disperse I’m not sure that I love this. I guess this comes down to how often the bounce effects we already have are targeting folks’ own stuff.
Phizzled: I guess if we’re hoping to save our own stuff rather than create a blocker-free boardstate on tempo, this is cheaper and more powerful than Blink of an Eye. I think I’m hesitantly against making that particular change because it feels like proposing a change for the sake of making the change.
Omniczech: While we’re not as heavy on self-mill as we could be, Organ Hoarder has a pretty solid body coupled with an ETB copy of Strategic Planning. I think that coupled with the density of good stuff at 5 in Blue makes this nicely fill a space in the cube.
Phizzled: l kind of like this, and, as noted by one of my friends, sometimes you cast your Pondering Mage at 5 and don’t live to actually use whatever cool spell you took. Shaving a mana off the cost (as well as some toughness) might lessen how often that happens.
Omniczech: Hey look, it’s a better copy of Morgue Theft! It’s got a bit of funky baggage in the form of zombie related additive distraction, but the base rate is just fine for 2 Raise Deads stapled together.
Phizzled: The additive distraction is really the only negative, and it’s kind of reaching. Hopefully this doesn’t confuse new players. Raise Dead was always overcosted for the effect, and this helps.
Omniczech: I kinda like this, but I’m not sure. Due to how decayed works, this kinda works out as a 5 mana 3/4 (not great) that comes with two Shocks that your opponent gets some say in what they target. I’ll leave this to the community opinion to figure out what folks think.
Phizzled: This isn’t Grave Titan, but it’s hard to ignore how much power is on the board (if temporarily) when you cast this. I think the exile clause is trinket text, but i’ve used Boneclad Necromancer “offensively” to exile potential reanimation targets. This is probably a little better than fine.
Omniczech: We’ve already seen Spark Harvest and passed on it, but we’re getting to the point where this style of “not Bone Splinters” effects are good enough to start considering. Exile is pretty good against the quantities of recursion and sorcery speed does make more removal heavy decks less powerful.
Phizzled: I’m very satisfied with Spark Harvest in one of my other cubes, but wouldn’t have asked for it in the Pauper Cube. This gains value only if the exile clause is critical, but it’s hard to say how often exiling might win you the game, or how often you’d need to have access to it for that to be true.
Omniczech: This card is reasonable. It’s a 4/4 cantrip for 4 that has a bit of extra work attached. I know the community’s pretty high on this one, I’m not personally in love with it, but I get the appeal.
Phizzled: The hoops you have to jump through for this to be the 4/4 for four mana feel like too much, but I guess keeping the cards flowing could be worth it. I struggled to find a great reason to add it to the list, but I forget that Black’s 4/4s at common are extremely sparse.
Omniczech: This came up late in the article writing. I get the appeal of this being able to break standstills and board stalls and also just being a bear. I also don’t love the implications of this being viable. Weirdly if this was a defensive body I’d be much higher on it, but as it stands I’m highly mixed opinion and will hear out community opinion.
Phizzled: It’s still so weird to me how many bears either upside red and black have gotten after decades of bears with stiff penalties were the default. Flavorfully, needing to tap three creatures to eek out some seige-like damage is right on point. This feels like a reasonable closer for incidental damage to close the game out for you aggro deck, but as currently configured Black isn’t going super wide. Let’s call me “hesitant but interested in community feedback.”
Omniczech: This is really cool to see that we’re finally getting Red Archaeomancer. I don’t know if we need another version of this, but it might be nice to finally update Izzet Chronarch which is beginning to show its age.
Phizzled: I tried this out in my prerelease and it was nice for enabling double-spelling to turn off Day/Night. The body is unappealing compared to the Chronarch ability, but the value certainly climbs where you have some top shelf and inexpensive burn.
Phizzled: Flashback and instant speed are the saving graces here. I like this more than the MH2 version of Faithless. This definitely gives Red some legs where it needs it. But, does Red need it?
Omniczech: This rules. The fact this can be a Keldon Raider or just result in you playing 7 mana worth of stuff turn 4 is really big. I also love that you can keep activating it to keep card quality good while pressuring the opponent with a 4/3. Big fan of this thing.
Phizzled: I hadn’t compared this to Raiders, somehow. This does all the things I want to do in my goofy Red based control, and it has a built in mana sink. Delightful.
Phizzled: This is less unreasonable than Kiln Fiend. I think it’s still behind Burning Prophet as far as being more interesting for the Cube, but it can lead to more explosive turns. I haven’t heard that Red is underperforming in spells matter, but I’m pulling one of these for my On-Deck binder.
Omniczech: We’ve avoided the more all in versions of these type of spells matter effects, and crasher isn’t winning me over here. It has 1 more point of toughness over fiend but only getting ⅔ of the pump is a bit of a bummer.
Omniczech: It’s a big dumb idiot that sometimes is just a bit bigger and dumber. I don’t mean any of that as a way to detract from it, sometimes you just need to throw enough bricks at someone to solve the problem. I do want to get community opinions on this but I’m tentatively on board for some support in RG monsters style decks.
Phizzled: I think I glossed over the non-keyworded bloodthirst. Incidentally supporting counters in a color that might pair up with Green seems like a reasonable benefit, and trample is well-liked. I could see this sneaking in, though I don’t know the most correct cut for it.
Omniczech: I really want to like this and I’m 90% of the way there. I love removal stapled to reasonable effects as modal spells, but I worry that the attacking clause makes this just a bit too wonky for my tastes. I will leave this to community opinion.
Phizzled: I want slightly more from the buff clause, or for it to not have a restriction to attacking. This feels more restrictive and on-rails than I like, especially given the set of buffs we currently have and the occasional questions we get about Trumpet Blast.
Omniczech: I kinda like this. The fact that it grants keywords that make sense either on attacks or blocks is really nice. This does what I want Raze to do, it either lets you punch in for more damage or acts as pseudo removal by making a very spiky blocker.
Phizzled: This is a wild modal spell, and I think I skipped over processing the trample. There are definitely times when this will absolutely be more than 3 extra damage to the face. Even your overmatched Jackal Pup can play defense when you have this. I’m struggling to find the key downside.
Omniczech: We’ve got Dueling Rapier in the cube, maybe it’s time to try this in green as well. It’s nothing amazing but it could potentially put in work.
Phizzled: I don’t think I love this one. The art is exceptional, though, and I do think equip 4 is better than the version from Throne of Eldraine. I don’t know what the more appealing buff is, though.
Phizzled: I don’t like the idea of this being support for five color good stuff, but the incidental lifegain and the 2/4 body make me hesitate. This makes me wish our 7 and 8 drops were a touch more exciting in the Cube.
Omniczech: We passed on Rift Sower and I can’t look at this and say “yes, this is better than Rift sower”.
Omniczech: The longer I think about Coven the more I think it’s just one of those weird mechanics that’s just coincidentally turned on. If your deck can reliably have 3 different powers on board, this feels pretty good, I’m just not sure how often that board state gets assembled with some level of stability.
Phizzled: I think the instant speed is going to be the entire sales pitch. Coven is hard to predict, I think, without building the decks, but harder still is going to be knowing if you’ll be able to keep a bunch of creatures alive when you cast Duel.
Omniczech: Hey, more Strategic Planning variants! Yes this only gets creatures, but the flashback is pretty nice. I’m a fan of this.
Phizzled: Potentially digging really deep is great. I’m still assuming about a third of the cards in a deck are going to be hits, and this is probably great.
Omniczech: I want this to be good but Fear that it 100% isn’t. 4/4 is a solid body but just having nothing else going on it reads a 2 mana 4/4 with an upkeep cost of 2.
Phizzled: I love the art, but this is a less exciting vehicle and a way, way less exciting Guardian Idol. I’m not sure what the situation where this is most exciting.