Before I get too deep into things this week I would like to take a second to ask everybody that regularly uses anybody's Cube to thank them for the time and effort they put in to building and balancing their Cube. I spent around twelve straight hours putting everything together last Wednesday and I've changed a few cards here and there at least every other day since then. I had no idea that maintaining a Cube was so much work! Thank you to everybody who's Cube I have ever battled with. Your work is not unappreciated!
I ended up going with a 540 card Cube, constructed with the intention of being drafted by 2-8 people. There are 75 cards designated to every color along with five cards for every color pair, 40 non-basics and 75 un-aligned cards (mostly artifacts). I took some liberties on certain cards on their affiliations based on how playable I believe them to be with regard to color alignment. For example, Momentary Blink is decidedly good enough in a white deck (white), Apostle's Blessing is good enough in any deck (unaligned), and hybrid manacosts were all lumped in as gold cards. Here is the list as it stands at the time of this writing:
As one might expect from a list of 540 cards, there is a lot going on here. The intent of this cube, as with any cube, is to reward deckbuilding over merely drafting good cards. As such there are a number of intentional major and minor strategies, along with many that I'm discovering as I play! Many red decks would be content to play Keldon Marauders, but the decks that draft it along with cards like Kor Skyfisher and Goblin Bushwhacker are going to get a lot more mileage than those that don't. Rather than delve too much into synergies I'd prefer to cover some more general themes in the cube for the purpose of this weeks article.
I stated last week that I wanted manafixing to be hard to come by in this Cube, and I think that I've implemented this goal pretty well. There isn't a high density of cards that fix especially well there is a large incentive to playing cards like Wanderer's Twig. I've even happily maindecked Manamorphose a couple times already.
The best manafixing in the cube is probably in the Bouncelands and Guildgates, which I decided to include prior to release because it seemed awkward to not include any and even more awkward to only include the color pairs featured in Return to Ravnica. While the bouncelands and Guildgates are quite good, I don't think that they're too good by any means and there are several spells like Temporal Spring and Wrecking Ball that help keep greedy players in check.
Even with the fixing being as sparse as it is, four and five color strategies are still very much draftable. Here is a five-color deck that I Winston Drafted last week:
This deck also does a good job of exemplifying some of the synergies available in the cube. Faithless Looting is sweet with Ichor Slick, Pentad Prism makes turn three Myr Enforcer, the red auras go very well on Bramble Elemental and Cystbearer alike, having Cystbearer+Corpse Cur+Remember the Fallen is a really big game... As I said, there's a lot going on in this cube.
The Metalcraft theme in the Cube also goes a long way in fixing mana, which is also evidenced pretty strongly in the above list. You can stretch your mana pretty far when around half of your spells can be cast off of any land. I'm not 100% certain on the number of Artifacts to feature, but things have been working well so far. The only real problem is that cards like Ghalma's Warden and Chrome Steed are fantastic at outclassing other creatures when they're "on". As such, there is quite a bit of Artifact hate peppered in the Cube. This has also been working well thus far.
Last week I stated that I absolutely wanted Storm to be draftable in this Cube, but this turned out to be a lofty goal that I had to compromise on. The simple truth is that constructed Pauper Storm decks rely on a very high density of rituals and draw spells that would more often than not water down a Pauper Cube more than they would benefit it. The compromise that I came to was to include a number of spells that are good at adding storm count without really enabling a truly degenerate archetype. If you want to go really big then Etherium Sculptor might actually be the best option, but Manamorphose, Frantic Search, Lava Dart and others make for pretty good Storm for value turns.
The deck with the best potential to build storm that I've seen thus far is the Burn deck that Kyle Olson drafted in a four man last night. Empty the Warrens ended up going last in one of the packs and I can't help but feel that Kyle really wanted it, though it's not like his deck was bad or anything...
With Rebound, Suspend, Flashback and card draw all at his disposal it wouldn't be unreasonable for Kyle's deck to be able to storm for 3 or more with some regularity. Clearly his deck didn't really need Empty though, as Keldon Marauders plus Ninja of the Deep Hours and Volt Charge is already some kind of combo.
On Slivers, Spirits and Allies
Slivers, Spirits and Allies are three tribes that I've seen represented in other Pauper Cubes that I decided to eschew. For the most part they're just not good enough without a somewhat dedicated deck which is something that I wanted to avoid for individual cards in my cube. Additionally, these strategies generally require a player to play a lot of colors. While I do think that playing three or more colors should be possible I think it should be to take advantage of some manner of synergy available by doing so, not something that is entirely necessary to make your deck work in the first place.
Tribal themes in general, on the other hand, I believe to be pretty awesome. There are a number of cards in my Cube that benefit from having a certain threshold of on-tribe creatures. Currently Elves has the most support but I want to reinforce Goblins and Soldiers more in the future. The problem with most common Goblin things is that they suck and with most common Soldiers is that they don't really matter much in the context of building tribal decks. Tribal is absolutely something that I desire to explore more as the Cube evolves, and one thing to keep in mind is to add more Changelings as Tribal becomes more prevalent.
Balancing Removal and Creatures
One thing that I've noticed about many Pauper Cubes is that creatures tend to invalidate removal spells or vice-versa. I feel like they're pretty close to being balanced in this Cube, though there are a number of cards on my watch list. I recently cut Sky-Eel School and Gryff Vanguard for giving too much unconditional value on such large creatures- especially in blue which already features some very powerful cards.
For the most part I tried to keep creatures at three or fewer toughness which would leave them dead to many of the Red removals. A large percentage of creatures with more than three toughness are weak to the artifact removal that is prevalent in the Cube, and there is also a good amount of removal that unconditionally kills them dead. Dispel, Apostle's Blessing and the Raise Dead effects also swing things in the favor of Creatures. I believe that things are fairly even currently, but the creatures might be a little too good still.
So far I have been having an insanely good time drafting Pauper Cube, and the largest expense has far and away been the sleeves and the time it takes to put everything together. Though Pauper Cube is technically a budget option, I believe it has all of the complexity of traditional Cubes, just represented in different ways. There are tons of synergies to explore and awesome decks to draft. You can have a deck as simple as Elves or one as complex as Tortured Existence. The possibilities certainly don't start and stop at my list. I also find that Pauper Cube gives the best representation of modern Limited formats with such a strong emphasis on creatures, which makes it good practice for drafting in general.
I really couldn't recommend Pauper Cube, or even Cubing in general enough! If there are any awesome commons that I missed be sure to let me know in the comments!
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