Sometimes, I wish I could pull up my card search history. For the (overdue) Eldritch Moon Pauper Cube update, I ran at least all of the following:
So there's your teaser for this intro.
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) and catch up on the latest changes with the Eternal Masters update. As always, the updated Pauper Cube Google Sheet has the complete list ready for you.
This update for Eldritch Moon brings some philosophy and mechanics to the forefront the cube and I wanted to have time to discuss it. Let's get started.
Desperate Sentry replacing Loyal Cathar
Loyal Cathar is a fine card, and I think the full power of Desperate Sentry takes a little too much juggling. In looking for two-drops to shift around I discovered Sentry serves a similar role to Cathar, but provides a biggest total upside.
And the token can block and doesn't trade with X/1s. Both points are relevant.
Spectral Reserves replacing Youthful Knight
I like first strike as a combat keyword. It's pseudo evasion, and awesome on the defensive. Youthful Knight was utterly uninspiring for play all the same. Spectral Reserves isn't tremendously exciting either, but flying Spirits are relevant for tokens decks and the 2 life isn't terrible. The extra four-drop doesn't hurt white's curve either.
Borrowed Grace replacing Army of Allah
Borrowed Grace is everything Army of Allah is, except easier to cast and comes with bonus decisions. This is just a power upgrade.
Angelic Purge replacing Cloudshift
One feature I've come to appreciate more and more is how different sorcery and instant truly are as card types. Similar effects fill similar roles, but the forced decision of having to use something during your turn matters. Angelic Purge is going to be played more than Cloudshift—the former is universal removal and the latter is a situational trick—but as a sorcery it's something that takes thought.
I'll come back to that idea.
Other White Cards to Watch
Choking Restraints looks amazing in a world where I'm adding Ironclad Slayer and similar "get back an enchantment" creatures.
Lunarch Mantle has "the Aura problem" but it's a ton of fun to pressure that early.
Steadfast Cathar hits above it's weight class on the offense but it's not quite enough here.
Wretched Gryff replacing Withdraw
Bouncing creatures is just a little too easy for blue. Withdraw is a little too punishing in the early game, where tapping out on curve is excellent. Later in the game it's actually harder to cast for a redundant effect. Wretched Gryff is a bit experimental, but upgrading to a flying threat while drawing a card seems great as a reward.
Exultant Cultist replacing Benthic Infiltrator
Filling the graveyard is a theme I've dabbled with, and this update puts it in earnestly. Exultant Cultist trades for an X/2 while drawing a card along the way. Unlike Benthic Infiltrator, this should be acceptable for most decks to fill out a curve and rewarding for the decks that want it.
Drag Under replacing Sweep Away
Drag Under is a sorcery speed version of Repulse. Why play Drag Under when you can play Repulse? It's the sorcery speed decision I mentioned above: Drag Under is undeniably powerful. Do you play it instead of Boomerang? Is it better than Voidwielder? Choosing how to spend your mana on your turn, and the tradeoff of cantrip for speed, is interesting. Sweep Away is an easy swap for something similar.
Screeching Skaab replacing Cloud of Faeries
There's no combo in the cube. Cloud of Faeries was a "free" creature but it wasn't impressive. (See Peregrine Drake.) Pushing self-mill and payoffs for it into the cube needs support, and Screeching Skaab is a fine body with a "mill yourself for two" attached.
Laboratory Brute replacing Distortion Strike
Distortion Strike was cute, but ultimately big creatures don't need to sneak through and there's enough evasion in every color it's redundant. Laboratory Brute with everything Armored Skaab wanted to be. A Hill Giant that fills the graveyard is solid for any blue deck that wants to do that.
Mental Note and Thought Scour replacing Artificer's Epiphany and Whispers of the Muse
Artificer's Epiphany was just ok, and the only time I've seen Whispers of the Muse paid with buyback is when someone was already ahead in a game. Mental Note and Thought Scour fill the role of self-mill options, and players seem to love one-mana cantrip effects. Enjoy, Island players.
Other Blue Cards to Watch
Displace is fun for cubes that push white-blue into "enters the battlefield creatures" shenanigans.
Fogwalker is pretty solid for blue's slice of keeping things tapped that are already tapped.
Ingenious Skaab is surprisingly good for a blue body in Limited.
Midnight Scavengers replacing Vampire Envoy
Vampire Envoy was fun, but the pue value Midnight Scavengers provides is better. (No, Graf Rats is not along for the ride.)
Wailing Ghoul replacing Hymn to Tourach
Wailing Ghoul is more self-mill support. Hymn to Tourach doesn't feel good from an experience standpoint. (Probe is still in the cube, and Rakshasa's Secret is similarly positioned to come in someday.)
Other Black Cards to Watch
Boon of Emrakul can kill a surprising number of annoying things, and "buying back enchantments" is starting to look possible in white-black.
Cemetery Recruitment is amazing if your cube has a Zombie theme. Mine doesn't.
Gavony Unhallowed can get carried away in some matchups.
Succumb to Temptation seems like a slam dunk. Double black in the cost and keeping blue the king of card draw kept it out of this update, but it's too awesome to ignore.
Dead Reckoning seems like the kind of removal spell a self-mill deck would really like to use.
Rakshasa's Secret is a Mind Rot that only self-mill could love.
Stinkweed Imp is annoying to attack into, and packs a Wallop for milling yourself.
Toxic Stench is surprisingly flexible for taking out small fries and big things later on.
Borderland Marauder replacing Gore-House Chainwalker
This is more of a tweak than change, but getting the best of both attack and block modes seems interesting. Borderland Marauder and Gore-House Chainwalker are mostly interchangeable on the offense, and following Zac Hill on Facebook made me reconsider why I had one over the other.
Fire Ambush and Volcanic Hammer replacing Lightning Strike and Searing Spear
Sorcery speed decisions matter. Nudging the cube into rewarding decisions and encouraging battlefield development over sitting back with mana up is tricky. Both Fire Ambush and Volcanic Hammer are powerful and useful, but less flexible than Searing Spear and Lightning Strike. There's still plenty of instants around to light things on fire, but rounding out the last burn spell order another creature will be a tougher call.
Rift Bolt replacing Rush of Adrenaline
Slowing down burn in general also meant I could revisit the overall level of burn. Rift Bolt is great, but is slow in either mode. Rush of Adrenaline's slot has been in Flux for a few sets, but a slower (or even more expensive) Lightning Bolt should be a welcome return.
Other Red Cards to Watch
Brazen Wolves is a bigger Borderland Marauder of sorts, and will get a closer look soon.
Make Mischief almost made the cut by replacing Lash Out. It felt too cute at the last minute, but dealing three damage—or more, thanks to making a body—for three mana isn't awful rate either.
Otherworldly Outburst was definitely too cute to add, but the appeal of setting up a trade up and ending with a 3/2 for effectively one red mana and a card is an appealing best case scenario to dream about.
Prophetic Ravings can be incredible value. Granting haste isn't to be overlooked even if the card filtering side is more appealing.
Vildin-Pack Outcast is monstrosity done right. I wish going bigger was a better thing to do in my cube without gutting removal across the board.
Chatter of the Squirrel replacing Fists of Ironwood
Fists of Ironwood needs a target, and gets hit by "the Auras" problem. Chatter of the Squirrel is a first turn play that can also get in on graveyard action. In theory it's still two tokens all around.
Grapple with the Past replacing Garruk's Companion
Grapple with the Past is seeing Standard play in graveyard value decks. Fixing mana or getting back something for the battlefield isn't bad, and as an instant you can avoid making a decision until the last minute. With all the sorcery cards making their way in I wanted to try and make doing "something different that doesn't impact the battlefield" less painful. It's already tough to get the most out of self-mill, so why make it harder?
Garruk's Companion was just a generic beater. Solid, but utterly boring and unexciting..
Swift Spinner replacing Rhox Maulers
Speaking of generic beaters, Rhox Maulers is a fine trample card that makes opponents want to block. But if they could kill the Rhino easily they already will—it's only best when you're already ahead.
Swift Spinner gives green another tool against flying decks, as plays a similar role that Simian Grunts did in the past. A 2/3 with flash won't trip any alarms, and four mana is a big commitment to keep up if the opponent doesn't fall into your trap. It's harder to user than it looks, but it's still something interesting for green decks to try out.
Ulvenwald Captive and Werebear replacing Fyndhorn Elves and Llanowar Elves
This is probably the most hated change of the update, but I believe it will result in more interesting games. Both Llanowar Elves and Fyndhorn Elves have been sacrosanct since they hit. Mana dorks at one mana are generally among the best first turn plays in creature-based Magic. There's even more I could have in the cube but don't!
Why switch? All mana dorks suffer greatly as the game goes on. Once you hit your five or six lands—easy to do in most games with the cube—the dorks become utter duds. Werebear and Ulvenwald Captive offer similar jumps in speed, but both can be much more late in the game. Getting a 4/4 for two or transforming a 1/2 into a 4/6 means late in the game both cards can still be assets. Rewarding those long-game decks seems correct over a marginal possibility of "casting and extra land" on the first turn.
Other Green Cards to Watch
Bloodbriar and Carrion Feeder are best friends.
Wolfkin Bond looks stellar if your cube doesn't punish Auras so much.
Woodcutter's Grit is an expensive take on Ranger's Guile, which makes it that much worse to try and use.
Woodland Patrol is solid but generic and replaceable.
Multicolor, Colorless and Lands
Winged Coatl replacing Slippery Bogle
Slippery Bogle is a relic of a bygone "Hexproof Auras in the cube" era. Winged Coatl is removal, for lack of anything more interesting that I found to try instead.
Cultist's Staff replacing Strider Harness
Giving a creature +2/+2 instead of +1/+1 matters. Cultist's Staff is a more expensive take on Vulshok Morningstar, but surprisingly solid as far as equipment goes all the same. Strider Harness was cute, but making almost anything in a solid threat matters more than incidental haste.
|Desperate Sentry||Loyal Cathar|
|Spectral Reserves||Youthful Knight|
|Borrowed Grace||Army of Allah|
|Exultant Cultist||Benthic Infiltrator|
|Drag Under||Sweep Away|
|Screeching Skaab||Cloud of Faeries|
|Laboratory Brute||Distortion Strike|
|Thought Scour||Artificer's Epiphany|
|Mental Note||Whispers of the Muse|
|Midnight Scavengers||Vampire Envoy|
|Wailing Ghoul||Hymn to Tourach|
|Borderland Marauder||Gore-House Chainwalker|
|Volcanic Hammer||Searing Spear|
|Fire Ambush||Lightning Strike|
|Rift Bolt||Rush of Adrenaline|
|Chatter of the Squirrel||Fists of Ironwood|
|Grapple with the Past||Garruk's Companion|
|Swift Spinner||Rhox Maulers|
|Ulvenwald Captive||Fyndhorn Elves|
|Winged Coatl||Slippery Bogle|
|Cultist's Staff||Strider Harness|
The full Google Sheet for the Pauper Cube has more information if you're curious, but that's it for the Eldritch Moon update.
Of course, because I was so late in finalizing the Eldritch Moon update I've run head first into Conspiracy: Take the Crown's reveal. Fortunately, there aren't any common downshifts (unlike Eternal Masters) so it's just a few high level questions and cards.
Will the monarch mechanic make the cube?
Subgames are interesting when players are all on board. It's why I keep Cheatyface handy, but not in the main cube stack anymore. Monarch is more powerful in a duel setting. Your extra cards aren't weighed against multiple opponents' draw steps, and the ability to set up a monarch play and hold it while you're ahead limits the potential for some decks to come back into a game.
But monarch also encourages attacking, using combat tricks, keywords like trample and haste matter even more—lots of great things for the style of cube I've curated.
Ultimately, if the monarch cards look right and will play well across all the colors—just like in Conspiracy: Take the Crown draft I'd want every color to have a shot at instant monarch—then monarch can make it. I want to draft the set first and see.
What cards are you considering for your cube?
Lieutenants of the Guard are an appealing way to make a four power for five mana. (In duels, only two players will ever vote for a card.) It works for most decks, and anything that helps make extra tokens is great for aggressive white decks.
Palace Sentinels is white's common that makes you the monarch. A 2/4 for four isn't anything to write home about, but almost assuredly drawing a card at the end of the turn with a body built for blocking seems fine too.
Wings of the Guard is effectively a 2/2 flying for two on offense, and requires only one white mana to cast. That's not bad.
Illusionary Informant is cute, and a marginal upgrade over similar cards at common.
Messenger Jays is hard to evaluate, and that might be amazing. Filtering cards is fine for blue, but getting a 4/3 flying for five mana probably means the opponent has removal. Either way the decisions around this card seem fun.
Skittering Crustacean lets you go big, which is actually a nice way to support Blue-Green Ramp angles.
Regicide is amazing. The three color choices have to be different, which means it becomes a fair fearsome piece of removal for one mana. The balance of color restrictions and subgame of color choices looks fun.
Sinuous Vermin transforms from an on-the-curve body to a solid evasive threat. I'm intrigued.
Thorn of the Black Rose is black's "make me monarch" card at common, and attached to a 1/3 deathtouch body is more impressive than white's 2/4. Definitely interested in how it plays out.
Garbage Fire is an amazing name, but doesn't hit players. I'm still looking at it because it's called Garbage Fire.
Borderland Explorer is a fine body for two mana, but it's ability is likely to help you opponent as much as you. Helping to fill your graveyard doesn't seem bad, however.
Entourage of Trest is a great way to become the monarch, helps you stay the monarch and is big enough to matter if you aren't the monarch anymore. Also you probably draw at least one card.
Leovold's Operative is a solid 3/2 body for three, but the ability will reward drafters that can keep track of which packs will wheel the most potential picks back.
Menagerie Liberator is a 4/3 with trample for four on the offense. It's not quite Wildheart Invoker or Spiked Baloth, but it's interesting.