Hi. It's been awhile. Thanks for waiting.

Since the internet always knows best, what am I doing today?

— Adam Styborski (@the_stybs) November 5, 2016

Conspiracy: Take the Crown kicked off a busy three-month stretch of previews-into-release-into-previews again. Kaladesh quickly piled onto the whole backlog of commons, and then Commander 2016 arrived with an unexpected common gem.

Keeping a cube up-to-date these days is more work than I anticipated. It's only been just over two months and I have three releases to have played with, considered and added to the mix.

If you're wondering what's going on here, I maintain a Pauper Cube. You can get a bird's eye view in the Shadows over Innistrad update, which links to even more information. As always, the updated Pauper Cube Google Sheet has the complete list ready for you. (And, yes, I'm looking into other options for sharing the cube list too. Feel free to shout your favorite cube/card tracking service at me.)

There's a lot going on so let's roll.

On Monarchy

There were five commons printed in Conspiracy: Take the Crown that could set you as the monarch:

Becoming the monarch essentially reads "Draw a card at end of turn, then protect yourself before you wreck yourself." and that's precisely how I evaluated the ability. Becoming the monarch in a duel is a liability since an opponent taking the crown and keeping it means you fall further and further behind. The upside is that keeping control means you draw extra cards without any investment, a rare feat in Pauper.

For my cube, I immediately found Canal Courier and Crown-Hunter Hireling unplayable. Their abilities either don't work for duels or aren't exciting despite the extra card potential. Entourage of Trest is fine, but there's plenty of other green beef to use too. Palace Sentinels are boring but cheaper, and Thorn of the Black Rose is outstanding—playable even in Commander (at least according to me).

The question then became "Do I play an unbalanced number of "become the monarch" cards?" I decided to do just that, and give white-black a stronger identity for control.


Palace Sentinels replacing Spectral Reserves

Thorn of the Black Rose replacing Driver of the Dead

Both Spectral Reserves and Driver of the Dead are fine cards, but neither is particularly impressive either. Adding monarch to white and black, giving that pair a specific card-drawing boost for the control pairing, should lead to more than just blue-black control hanging around.

Giving the color pair with the highest amount of removal payoff cards for having "too much" removal in their deck seemed fair. Of course, it'll still be tough to keep the crown but it will be fun to see how it works out.

Consider Entourage of Trest on deck as Green-Blue Ramp is inclined to try and be the monarch too. Isn't multiplayer Magic exciting?

On Fabrication

I was a little disappointed to see Glint-Sleeve Artisan first, only to have Kaladesh preview season confirm fabricate wasn't in every color and hid Peema Outrider until the mass Friday full reveal. Fabricate is an excellent mechanic for my cube since it supports both token decks and traditional good-on-the-curve-sized creatures.

The choice matters more in my cube where there's plenty of removal: Both 3/3s and extra 1/1s are useful, which puts Glint-Sleeve Artisan in a great spot. (See below for all the fabricate details.)

On Ash Barrens

This is another common that was hidden until the full reveal on the Friday endcapping preview season.

Why? Just… why?

This card has Legacy implications. It's ridiculously simple and powerful. It's got an evergreen name so it can turn up anytime, anywhere (assuming basic landcycling is ok to include). I've lodged my complaint* with the preview powers-that-be since talking about this card for Pauper, cuber and Commander would have been a slam dunk. (*I haven't. It's really not a process I know enough about to make appropriately critical feedback.)

Just add Ash Barrens to your cube and don't look back.

On The Colorful Side of Things

Let's hit all the updates in one swoop.

Glint-Sleeve Artisan replacing Lone Missionary

I really like Lone Missionary, but squeezing some token redundancy into the cube makes more sense. Kaladesh made me wistful enough for a white-blue flicker theme, but it's not enough for a cube of commons. (If Aviary Mechanic had flash too…)

Propeller Pioneer replacing Apex Hawks

Propellor Pioneer gets you to three flying power one mana cheaper than Apex Hawks, or it gives you two bodies. It's that kind of flexibility that I love about fabricate. I will miss the Hawks, and will keep an eye on other fliers to see if it needs to make a comeback.

Select for Inspection replacing Boomerang

Bouncing lands is not the intent of Boomerang. There's also plenty of double blue around to work with. Select for Inspection plays to what the bounce intent of Boomerang was, but gives you a little card selection too. It's a trade off that won't make cube "purists" happy, but will be better gameplay. (Note: Capsize is still around. Your land-bouncing dreams are alive and well.)

Lawless Broker replacing Ghoulcaller's Accomplice

Making a 2/2 Zombie for four mana was never exciting with Ghoulcaller's Accomplice, but black decks rarely want to cast this on the second turn either. Lawless Broker trade well and helps shore up decks like black-green and red-black that have plenty of creatures to go around.

Maulfist Squad replacing Undying Evil

I'll admit: Undying Evil was a pet card for me. I'd seen so many clever plays and blowouts with it I stopped looking at it for a time. Undying Evil is cute, but entirely dependent on circumstances. It had it's time in the cube, but Maulfist Squad arriving as two bodies or a 4/2 with much-needed evasion in black (Without a double black mana cost rider no less!) should be much more interesting far more often.

Regicide Replacing Snuff Out

Just like Fireblast was taken out since it was more "Oops! I got you!" combo style gameplay, Snuff Out is following the same path. Paying 4 life is dearly, but "getting" your opponent with a "free" spell is just disappointing gameplay. Regicide is quite efficient, adds a clever "draft matters" card to the cube for fun, and fills the same slot as an ultra-efficient removal spell.

Forked Bolt replacing Fall of the Hammer

Did you know the Duel Decks series isn't being released on Magic Online anymore? That change happened awhile ago (tell me when in the comments), and the upside seemed to be that rarity changes can happen in Duel Decks now. Forked Bolt slid down to common in Duel Decks: Zendikar vs. Eldrazi, and as a sorcery speed burn spell worth it's weight I swapped it in for the underplayed and under-desired Fall of the Hammer. Poor Purphoros.

Brazen Wolves replacing Zada's Commando

I really like Zada's Commando as it's a ludicrously efficient creature for two mana in red. However, there's enough larger stuff that it just doesn't attack as well as I'd hoped. Brazen Wolves punch above their weight class and really force you to be attacking with them. Good for pushing newer players into attacking and rewarding experienced players that craft an aggressive deck, the Wolves should have made the Eldritch Moon update.

It's been fixed.

Borderland Explorer replacing Nest Invader

Borderland Explorer may help your opponent too, but fixing colors is one of the things green gets to do best. Making a three-power body for two mana is nothing to scoff at either. Nest Invader is a fun card that can sometimes accelerate decks, but I want to nudge green towards more multicolor and graveyard-filling; This was one way to do both.

Peema Outrider replacing Wickerbough Elder

I've rarely seen Wickerbough Elder played. There are virtually no ways to deal with artifacts or enchantments in my cube, but the Elder still sat out most games. Getting a 4/4 with trample, or supporting a go-wide deck, for roughly the same mana cost feels right.

Eager Construct Replacing Prismatic Lens

Continuing my push to put acceptable artifact creatures into the cube, Eager Construct is a great two-drop. Even if it "helps" your opponent, it's actually not as bad as the actual card Runed Servitor gives up—especially if they leave the card on top. Prismatic Lens was rarely played and often redundant. A body should do better.

Renegade Freighter replacing Fellwar Stone

Renegade Freighter has made a name for itself in Kaladesh Limited. The Pain Train is a solid card that demands an answer, of which there are plenty in my cube.

Pauper Cube? Deal. (h/t @Polygon). #MTGKLD pic.twitter.com/uMX1rT7mIf

— Adam Styborski (@the_stybs) September 16, 2016

Instant speed removal will make this a harder card to use, but just as devastating when it happens. Fellwar Stone also pulled at green's identity, so trimming back on another two-mana artifact ramp spell seemed fine.


There are a ton of cards that could have edged their way in.

This update was interesting because there's been enough shakeup in the cube to keep it feeling new. Ideally, these nudges complement what's happening already. And, of course, continue to send me your thoughts via Twitter.

Glint-Sleeve Artisan Lone Missionary
Propeller Pioneer Apex Hawks
Palace Sentinels Spectral Reserves
Select for Inspection Boomerang
Lawless Broker Ghoulcaller's Accomplice
Maulfist Squad Undying Evil
Thorn of the Black Rose Driver of the Dead
Regicide Snuff Out
Forked Bolt Fall of the Hammer
Brazen Wolves Zada's Commando
Borderland Explorer Nest Invader
Peema Outrider Wickerbough Elder
Eager Construct Prismatic Lens
Renegade Freighter Fellwar Stone
Ash Barrens

See you in 2017 when Aether Revolt causes a little Upheaval!

Adam Styborski