Journey into Nyx Pauper Cube Update

If you missed the previous Pauper Cube updates last year, here are the last six:

Of course, if you like to hang around on Twitter, you also had a chance to see it before today:

It’s also a larger update, as I have some explaining to do:

I won’t waste our time.

A summary table is available at the end of the article as well as in the Change Log of the Pauper Cube GoogleDoc.

White

Nyxborn Shieldmate and Oreskos Swiftclaw

Nyxborn Shieldmate
Oreskos Swiftclaw

Let's talk about bestow again. The performance of the bestow creatures has been overwhelmingly positive, and the idea of adding a potential 1-drop that also packs bestow looks right, particularly now that the “Soul Sisters” of Soul Warden and Soul’s Attendant haven’t panned out as I had hoped: The life-gain is good, but they don’t win games alone.

Alongside the new bestow addition is the almost-functional reprint in Oreskos Swiftclaw. A 3/1 for 2 mana is still a great deal as a vanilla creature.

Veteran Swordsmith and Shu Elite Companions

Veteran Swordsmith
Shu Elite Companions

Changing cards to help keep stalemates from happening is one way I work at making games brisk. While red, and to a lesser extent black, have ways to closing games outside of combat, most game wins are acquired through attacks. Veteran Swordsmith is an offensive lord that buffs many creatures and tokens in white; Shu Elite Companions is nigh unblockable.

Replacing the underperforming Benalish Knight and functionally similar Silverclaw Griffin keeps costs the same.

Supply-Line Cranes

Supply-Line Cranes
I really like how this card reads: A 2/4 flying for 5 mana isn’t exceptional, but diversifying threats with an extra +1/+1 counter is helpful fighting one-for-one removal. A 3/5 flying for 5 mana can fight every other flying creature in the Cube. If you want to avoid Portal: Three Kingdoms cards, this is an excellent alternative to consider.

Ajani’s Presence and Oppressive Rays

Ajani's Presence
Oppressive Rays

Combat tricks make combat more exciting. Knowing your larger or “stronger” creature will always win is boring, so scaling tricks like Ajani’s Presence makes me happy. Surviving any combat, and extracting value from safe blocks, are things I like to see, so I just added the strive instant. Black, red, and green, and white all had their “colorless” options moved out to colorless, so here, Porcelain Legionnaire made room.

Oppressive Rays looks like a great card. Paying 1 mana for more-or-less Arrest sounds like a great deal. However, one of the issues I’ve found across many games is that they don’t end immediately. It’s often easy for decks to hit 5, 6, or more mana to play with, especially aggressive decks that curve out and don’t have an abundance of mana sinks. I definitely have my eye on it, but I suspect it will perform less powerfully than the array of Pacifism effects already in the Cube.

Blue

Phantom Monster and Cloaked Siren

Phantom Monster
Cloaked Siren

Is Phantom Monster a common? It’s a question I’ve seriously asked myself before, and I’d wavered on the answer for some time. While physical print runs may not include commons, ignoring the “reclassification” of cards through Magic Online leaves out an angle for drawing potential choices. Phantom Monster isn’t an exciting, overpowered creature: It’s a curve-aligned, efficient, flying body.

Consider Cloaked Siren in Journey into Nyx. Trading 1 point of toughness to gain flash makes it clear Phantom Monster isn’t overbearing. Replacing both Echo Tracer (see spell changes below) and Spire Monitor smooths the curve for blue and gives it more tempo options to work with. (And don't worry: I have a foil copy of Crookclaw Transumter sitting on deck if blue really needs another flash flier.)

Hands of Binding

Hands of Binding
I messed up: Crypsis has been “cool,” but Hands of Binding did more work. With an uptick in evasion across all the colors in the Cube, the value of Hands of Binding goes up even more. I apologize to everyone who disagreed with my Crypsis change last update: You were right.

Essence Scatter, Deprive, Eye of Nowhere, and Quicksilver Geyser

Essence Scatter
Deprive
Eye of Nowhere
Quicksilver Geyser

Brainstorm is the worst card in blue. It’s awful.” It’s a statement I’ve heard repeatedly across months of Drafts. The power of blue’s 1-drops and counterspells has been called into repeated question as well: The value of cards like Force Spike and Daze drop off far too quickly thanks to the efficiency of every color, as an extra mana is often trivial by turn four or five. Bringing in more “hard” counters and bounce spells makes mechanical sense.

What we’re losing, however, is history. I never imaged a day Force Spike, Daze, Ponder, and Brainstorm would all be cut, but here we are. Mourn with me.

Sigiled Starfish

Sigiled Starfish
I have an unnatural desire to play with Sigiled Starfish. However, when I investigated whether it would fit into my Cube, the question came down to this: “Will Sigiled Starfish be more valuable than Omenspeaker?” My answer was an unfortunate “No.” With it having the same cost but 1 less power and the fact you need three turns just to have the same amount of scry that you have just for playing Omenspeaker left the Starfish on the sidelines.

Black

Foul Spirit and Wei Elite Companions

Foul Spirit
Wei Elite Companions

Black remained stable with this update. Blind Zealot is fairly dull with all of black’s removal, so a more aggressive creature (easier to cast, too!) made sense. Similarly, Pith Driller was usually just a Wall of sorts, and a more aggressive option shifts the value of going aggressive in black higher.

Pharika’s Chosen

Pharika's Chosen
With all this talk about aggressive decks, I want to share that I thought about control, too. A 1/1 with deathtouch can do plenty of work against beasts like Imperiosaur and haste-fueled fatties. An almost functional duplicate of Typhoid Rats is welcome. Making room is Vault Skirge moving to colorless.

Font of Return

Font of Return
I really like cards like Disturbed Burial, Grim Harvest, and Death Denied. Font of Return feels very close to the power of Death Denied, instead being an onboard trick but pulling in an absurd number of creatures in one go. However, the surprise and scaling of Death Denied are hard to top, and both Disturbed Burial and Grim Harvest can “go infinite” with recursion. Font of Return is a find substitute for any of these cards, but I am happy without Morgue Theft and other options.

Red

Sigiled Skink

Sigiled Skink
It used to be rare when red received a “value” guy. With the inclusion of limited card filtering and drawing, red’s options have grown. Sigiled Skink is a 2-drop you want to attack with, and thanks to scry, even if it’s a suicide or trade, you’ll probably come out ahead while digging to a fatty or burn spell. Somberwald Vigilante hasn’t stood out, even with its ability to hit above its weight class.

Inner-Flame Acolyte and Crusher Zendikon

Inner-Flame Acolyte
Crusher Zendikon

Haste does not make waste in this Cube. The archetypical red deck applies nonstop pressure to the opponent, and more haste was what the doctor ordered. Unlike Blood Ogre, a conditional 3/3 for 3, and Ashmouth Hound—see Somberwald Vigilante above—both of these creatures will hit the table running and make every burn spell even scarier.

Flurry of Horns

Flurry of Horns
There’s a minor token theme in red and white. These tokens are 4 power of haste for just 5 mana. Layering haste, creature diversity, and “replacing” the now-colorless Slash Panther has me very excited to see what red can do against the slower blue-value and multicolored decks.

Green

Ranger’s Guile

Ranger's Guile
Like black, green was stable through this update. Crushing Vines has almost never seen play, even against the decks with flying and Equipment. I’m hopeful a tricky way to counter bounce and other removal will prove more valuable, particularly at just 1 mana.

Ironhoof Ox

Ironhoof Ox
Thundering Tanadon moved to colorless, leaving room to try this flavor of evasion. Unlike smaller (Wolf) options, a 4/4 will be practically suicide for another creature to block. This is evasion that should provide value in either mode when attacking.

Renowned Weaver

Renowned Weaver
I really like Centaur’s Herald, particularly in the B/G recursion decks. Making multiple 3/3 Centaurs is solid, so the possibility to replicate its success with a similar card is appealing. However, 1/3 Spiders aren’t as threatening as 3/3s despite all the defense they may provide. I may come back to this as a way to evolve the B/G deck a step further, but I’m happy with how it’s playing out today.

Multicolored and Artifacts

Cavern Harpy

Cavern Harpy
With blue gaining such a significant bump in access to functional mechanics, I wanted to try out a classic card that will excite anyone who drafts the blue-value deck. Cavern Harpy can attack and block well and recycle enters-the-battlefield creatures, but it requires commitment to both colors and creatures to make happen. Forbidden Alchemy was often used as just a blue spell, so I’m hopeful this will tip the scales into more colorful use.

Deadshot Minotaur

Deadshot Minotaur
Tin Street Hooligan has rarely had a target to work with. Instead, I decided to bring back an old favorite that may function as a two-for-one more often. While I wish it was a 4/4 for 5 with its anti-flying trigger, a 3/4 is still a respectable body to have in play (and it works well with both red and green’s pump spells).

Fellwar Stone

Fellwar Stone
I wanted another mana rock, and Master’s Edition 3 did it for me. Since it relies on what an opponent is playing, it isn’t as good as Rampant Growth effects for true fixing, but control strategies generally want just an extra colorless anyway. I feel comfortable seeing one more colorless way to push control decks along.

Summary

Color In Out Note
{W} Nyxborn Shieldmate Soul’s Attendant
{W} Oreskos Swiftclaw Soul Warden
{W} Veteran Swordsmith Benalish Knight
{W} Shu Elite Companions Silverclaw Griffin
{W} Ajani’s Presence Replaces Porcelain Legionnaire
{U} Phantom Monster Echo Tracer
{U} Cloaked Siren Spire Monitor
{U} Hands of Binding Crypsis I was wrong, guys. My bad.
{U} Essence Scatter Daze
{U} Deprive Force Spike
{U} Eye of Nowhere Ponder
{U} Quicksilver Geyser Brainstorm
{B} Foul Spirit Blind Zealot
{B} Wei Elite Companions Pith Driller
{B} Pharika’s Chosen Replaces Vault Skirge
{R} Sigiled Skink Somberwald Vigilante
{R} Inner-Flame Acolyte Blood Ogre
{R} Crusher Zendikon Ashmouth Hound
{R} Flurry of Horns Replaces Slash Panther
{G} Ranger’s Guile Crushing Vines
{G} Ironhoof Ox Replaces Thundering Tanadon
{U}{B} Cavern Harpy Forbidden Alchemy
{R}{G} Deadshot Minotaur Tin Street Hooligan
{1} Porcelain Legionnaire Moved from white
{1} Spined Thopter Cube increase
{1} Vault Skirge Moved from black
{1} Slash Panther Moved from red
{1} Thundering Tanadon Moved from green
{1} Fellwar Stone Cube increase

While I’m sad there wasn’t a pile of bestow creatures to consider, the major shift in blue and slight fixes across the rest of the colors leaves me excited for what the next several Drafts will look like.

The next set is Conspiracy, and I for one can’t wait to see what other wacky cards are coming. With any luck, a few Modern Masters–style rarity downshifts will add even more powerful cards to the queue. Catch you in about a month!


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