Building a Pauper Cube- Part 1

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I stopped playing pauper a little bit before the monoblue Delver decks started showing up on what I like to refer to as “the day my brother took his Serrated Arrows back.” Truth be told I wish that I had just shelled out the infinite (3-4) tickets per Arrows to keep playing between then and now, because in the interim I had really missed making Mulldrifters.

Recently I started playing Pauper again and have played some sweet games since. The sweetest I’ve played since my return ended like this:

Some players lack the courage it takes to cast Accumulated Knowledge for four with ten cards left in their deck while enchanted by Curse of the Bloody Tome.

Seeing as I play Pauper strictly as an outlet for having fun, I would like to try to minimize those instances of unfun games. Seeing as altering the actual Pauper format is outside of my grasp I thought it might be interesting to explore building a Pauper Cube. After all, Cube is basically the best way to play Magic. At the very least the drafting portion is fun.

My friend Dana Kinsella has a very fun common cube, but there are a few fundamental problems with it. Basically the mana is too good and the decks are often incoherent as a result. It’s one of those Cubes where the best card and/or the best manafixing is usually the correct pick. There are strong strategies to build around and interesting card interactions, but while playing Dana’s cube I’ve never played less than four colors and I’ve never lost a match.

I want to build a cube with a higher emphasis on drafting actual decks. As a baseline for this I intend to use popular archetypes from the Pauper format as ideas for which decks I want to have viable in my cube. The Cloudpost decks clearly suffer from the singleton nature of Cube, but their base strategies should still be draftable even without their namesake acceleration.

I want this cube to generate games that are very similar to playing actual Pauper, and I’ve crafted a set of rules to follow while building that I believe will help me reach this end.

Storm Must Be Draftable

This is hardly the most important rule for the Cube to be fun to play, but for my ends this is the rule that matters the most. If combo can’t be drafted in my Cube then I will consider the Cube to be a failure. Combo is one of the pillars of the Pauper format and without it good removal just ends up mattering too much. I don’t want a cube that asks which player can build the best beatdown or control deck, I want a Pauper Cube that involves as much strategic planning as a well-built powered Cube.

Cards Should Be Powerful in Multiple Archetypes

One of the issues with having Storm as a draftable archetype in a lot of Cubes is that many of the cards that are good in Storm just don’t fit into other decks at all. To some extent this is unavoidable. I’m not going to just not include Dark Ritual, but I also don’t plan to put every Desperate Ritual variant in the Cube.

Luckily there are a number of cards that are good in Storm decks that happen to fit into other decks very well. All of the card draw/filtering are going to be fine in any deck that can cast them and cards like Nightscape Familiar still get to block when featured in non-storm decks. Spells with Suspend also tend to have enough impact to be good enough in non-combo decks while also being great for adding to storm.

Another thing to keep in mind will be having a high enough threshold of artifacts for an affinity/metalcraft deck to be viable while making sure that most of the artifacts included will be good enough without needing such a theme in one’s deck.

Following this rule will probably be the most important for the success of the cube, as it allows players to explore strategies that I hadn’t thought of as well as making is super easy to hybridize all of the strategies that I intend for the Cube.

Manafixing Should be Hard to Come By

Good manafixing makes for boring cubes. I want to avoid having four/five color decks being draftable as much as possible. They should be able to exist, but not able to be forced. I plan to avoid cards like Kodama's Reach and Signets. I do still want some ramp and fixing, but I’m going to need to be very careful with this selection. The Ravnica bouncelands are probably necessary for their interactions with the Urza block “free” mechanic for the Storm decks and the odd Sakura Tribe Elder isn’t going to hurt anybody, but for the most part mana fixing will be rare.

Hate is Probably Necessary

If Storm is going to viable I don’t want it to be the case that players just lose every time their opponent casts Empty the Warrens. Echoing Truth and Echoing Decay are pretty automatic includes and will help to combat the Storm decks while being completely reasonable cards on their own.

That said, I want to avoid cards like Circle of Protection: Red that would just invalidate certain decks on their own. There will be cards that are good against every strategy, but nothing that just colds any of them. That’s just not fun Magic.

At this point I’m not exactly close to having a finished list, but I have a large stack of cards sitting next to me and a lot of ideas for the direction that I want this cube to go. In addition to Storm I want Tortured Existence, Burn, Poison, MUC and Metalcraft to all be viable archetypes to draft. I’m currently undecided on whether or not to include Slivers in my Cube. They can be pretty good with Changelings but mostly they just don’t overlap with other archetypes at all and that will probably ultimately be the reason they end up not being included.

I plan to have a finished list ready come next week and I would love to hear any ideas that anybody has in the comments sections either for archetypes that I should try to work into the cube or singular sweet cards that I might not know about. Let me know!

-Ryan Overturf
@RyanOverdrive on Twitter

2 thoughts on “Building a Pauper Cube- Part 1

  1. Hey, while this is great that you want to include storm in your cube, have you considered any other deck archetypes? Could you expound on that? This is a really weightless article that basically strokes your love for drafting one type of deck in a cube and ignores the rest of the cube completely and sadly it’s an archetype that most people just can’t stand.

    How many cards are you going to make the cube? What will each of your colors focus on? Will there be tribal elements (is it even possible with pauper)? Are you building it based on print pauper or online pauper? How do you intend on playing the cube? For instance I’m building a 4 player 5pack by 8 card per pack draft cube. I know another person that’s building a 60 card sealed cube, which works out similarly to 4 pack sealed. Are you worried about the absence mass removal options (something that Adam Styborski has said about the format)?

    1. This is all what I was going to focus on writing for next week, you’ll notice the “part 1” in the title.

      I’m thinking 540 cards intended to be drafted with five packs of 9 by four or more players. I thought it was more important to lay out my goals for the cube this week and to write about exactly what every color does when the actual list is up.

      Believe me, I’m not the type of guy that usually drafts combo decks. I included the discussion and intent to include Storm on the basis that I think it’s a difficult objective and that it will make the cube more interesting. I’ll probably be trying to draft UGx control decks most of the time. I think you really misinterpreted my intent.

      The absence of mass removal does impact the format, but I don’t believe that it makes it worse. You do have cards like Rolling Thunder, and to an extent Grapeshot and Temporal Fissure to deal with multiple creatures. I’m also trying to keep the creatures in the cube at a power level that makes most of them one-for-one with the removal options available ex: most of the green creatures won’t have more than three toughness so that they can all be bolted (again, something I’m planning to write about next week).

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