The onslaught of Magic sets has finally settled with Magic 2014 Core Set. It's been an update marathon through three other Pauper Cube updates:
We're finally at the fourth update in as many months, but it's still an exciting time to be in the business of running a Pauper Cube. Magic 2014 has several interesting cards, a few of which are excellent additions to a Cube. In traditional fashion, I'll run down the contenders and share which replaced what, if anything, as we go. A summary table is available at the end of the article as well as in the Change Log of the Pauper Cube GoogleDoc.
Celestial Flare is an interesting update to Divine Verdict and Neck Snap. White's instant removal is often expensive at the 3- and 4-mana line, so having something at 2 is exciting. Unlike Puncturing Light’s power limit, Celestial Flare's "restriction" is that it’s now a player-targeting sacrifice effect.
Instant-speed sacrifice effects are often better, but forcing it to happen only to creatures actively in combat means the utility provided by black's take on sacrifice (Diabolic Edict and Geth’s Edict) isn't available here. Ultimately, this restriction is the same as what killed AWOL for me.
A 3/3 flying for 4 is no joke. I've reviewed the commons available in Magic many times, and the downshifted commons in Magic Online's Masters Edition always intrigue me. Phantom Monster in particular is a blue card I've been drooling over for a couple of years. Adding that consistent, efficient flying power to blue's arsenal in my Cube would be a no-brainer.
That's the sort of bargain Charging Griffin implies. A 3/3 on the offense is usually where you care about it most, and coming down on turn four seems like enough. And it is. Looking at my Cube, I've realized that Thraben Sentry hasn't performed as well as I had hoped. It definitely kills players, but it's very much a rich-get-richer effect—it's at its best when you already have plenty of action on the board.
Charging Griffin, unlike Thraben Sentry, is a threat unto itself—that's evasive to boot.
The most comparable cards to Master of Diversion are Haazda Snare Squad and Kor Hookmaster. Haazda Snare Squad was a surprising standout from Dragon's Maze Limited, and I'm keeping my eye on the white Horned Turtle that can turn the tides on the offense.
Kor Hookmaster is where my thoughts consolidate. Hookmaster is a reactive card. You're looking either to clear an opponent's blocker now or temporarily or to claw your way back into a game by holding back your opponent's biggest threat. What I want to encourage with Master of Diversion is more attacking than holding back. Curving out with Kor Hookmaster is much less impressive when you're holding down a blocker to push just 2 damage in, and there's plenty of white removal at sorcery speed for later in the game.
Master of Diversion, unlike Kor Hookmaster, nudges you to attack and can keep a blocker down for as long as it takes.
Concordia Pegasus was a surprising source of value during Dragon's Maze Limited. Stopping 2 -drops all day long and sticking around long enough to wear some pants (like Knightly Valor) was plenty enough to work with.
But in blue, it isn't as exciting for enchantments as it is for blocking. While Giant Tortoise features a critical fourth point of toughness, Seacoast Drake can stymie the aerial 2-drops floating around marvelously. While there aren't any pants in blue, Seacoast Drake is a far better attacker than Giant Tortoise.
Seacoast Drake, which replaced Giant Tortoise, blocks in the air and can represent a small, but evasive attack.
Once upon a time, Chasm Drake was featured in my Cube. While it quickly fell by the wayside thanks to other big flyers, such as Spire Monitor and Gryff Vanguard, the idea of lifting ground guys into the air is still appealing. Trained Condor is a reasonable creature on its own—a 2/1 with flying for 3 mana—but has that flying-granting attack trigger.
Unfortunately for Trained Condor, blue has plenty of flying creatures already in the Cube. The incremental value is great for something like a G/U deck, where being a 5/5 green fatty is usually enough without flying.
Messenger Drake isn't going into my Cube, but in my reserve of cards I keep on hand when thinking about Cube updates, it's replacing Sky-Eel School. Card-filtering is definitely strong, but a 3/3 flying for 5 carrying its own insurance policy is slightly better in my mind.
I've loved Pit Keeper in my Cube for a long time. With you have cycling, creature trading, and even Forbidden Alchemy driving the U/B deck, Pit Keeper put a free Raise Dead onto a relevant-sized blocker. The problem with Pit Keeper isn't about when it works, but the numerous times it doesn't.
U/B doesn't play a lot of creatures, and B/R typically chooses burn or haste over a utility 2-drop. Corpse Hauler won't find its way into a B/R back, but U/B and B/G will find significantly more value out of being able to choose when to return a creature.
Corpse Hauler, replacing Pit Keeper, is exactly the type of creature a controlling deck wants to use.
Accursed Spirit is a black Bladetusk Boar. While neither is a solid fit in my Cube right now, at some point, push may come to shove, and adding 3-power, 4-mana, virtual flyers to those two colors will be important. Until then, I'm holding onto Accursed Spirit and waiting.
I really like Deathgaze Cockatrice. There are two things that hold it back from my Cube:
- Double-black mana is rough for a Cube already filled with that requirement.
- Flying and deathtouch pales in comparison to the Terror family sitting nearby.
I can foresee a day when Deathgaze Cockatrice is in my Cube—then, the power has been inched down a step, and the need to fight with a creature (Blastoderm anyone?) is even more important.
Academy Raider is an interesting card to consider. While the gripes about it costing too much mana is something many people, including I, have shared, it's actually better than one of the cards already in my Cube: Rummaging Goblin. Dealing damage—even just 1 point—while filtering is strong. While being unable to do it before combat is a strong downside, dealing an extra 2 or 3 damage over the course of a game is a better upside.
Academy Raider, replacing Rummaging Goblin, fits right into aggressive red decks, particular when Equipment becomes involved.
Blur Sliver isn't going into the Cube, but it is a marginal upgrade over Goblin Chariot. If Slivers ever come to my Cube, Naya would be the combination based on current choices.
Most Cubes don't need a third, fourth, or higher copy of Llanowar Elves, but if that day comes, I'll have a foil copy in reserve ready to go.
Green removal! Prey Upon is a great spell, and Hunt the Weak is its first cousin. While a 4-mana sorcery is unappealing for removal, it's perfectly fine in green. Since Hunt the Weak adds a +1/+1 counter, it means you can take an evenly-matched creature and come out ahead . . . holding onto an ever better threat.
Hunt the Weak replaces Battering Krasis, which just never worked out evolving the way I wanted it to.
Ramp decks have long languished in my Cube. I want to continue adding ramp value until the deck is firmly on its footing. Sporemound is just the type of card that can provide plenty of value when you've drafted all the ramp spells.
The problem was in looking what to replace. In the end, I settled on changing out both Festerhide Boar and Ulvenwald Bear. These were already fairly conditional creatures, and I want to change some of the redundant green "average guys" into a more varied set of tools.
Sporemound, replacing Festerhide Boar, is just the kind of varied tool my Cube needs.
Shinen of Life’s Roar isn't your typical creature, but it's one that will give green a tool I've wanted for quite a while: Lure. Between its 4-mana channel option or 2-drop body, your opponent will loathe to kill it over killing a fatty to come later, and this is one Spirit I'm going to force into a deck soon.
Shinen of Life’s Roar replaces Ulvenwald Bear to add a virtual spell to the Cube.
Magic 2014 brought a small set of changes to the Cube. Between new tools for green, more aggression in white, and some minor tweaks in between, I'm excited to see how my Cube settles out before Theros hits this fall. Until then, be sure to keep your eyes on the Change Log and Spoiler tabs of my Pauper Cube Spreadsheet.
Do you think I missed anything in Magic 2014? Is there any type of Pauper Cube article you'd like to see someday? Let me know in the comments below.