We're back! The latest Pauper cube update is here and I'm excited to not only share it with you, but announce exciting changes for the future of the cube.
First, let's talk about this update. New-to-common cards in Masters 25? Check. Sweet Dinosaur and Vampire and Pirate action straight out of Rivals of Ixalan? Check. Wacky-yet-obvious-in-their-intent-and-use wacky cards from Unstable? Check. It's a complete catch up before Dominaria releases this Friday and will get you ready for a fast update for that new set early next week.
However you won't find that update, or any other future Pauper cube update, here.
Did you know the Pauper cube is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year? In 2008 I started piling all these cards together, and thanks to the contributions from folks like Eric Klug, Usman Jamil, Alex Ullman and more it was refined into the form you find today. To make it possible to collect the years to updates and posts spread across a half-dozen content sites, and keep future updates organized for easy reference, I've launched a website dedicated to the Pauper cube: thepaupercube.com.
TCGplayer remains the best place to buy commons, and I'll still be making it easy to follow along and pick up exactly what you need. Check out the site and you'll find many of your questions answered. For now, let's get straight to the good stuff and break down all the changes.
|Savannah Lions||Phantom Nomad|
|Martyr of Dusk||Desperate Sentry|
|Ordinary Pony||Kabuto Moth|
|Chivalrous Chevalier||Plover Knights|
|GO TO JAIL||Test of Faith|
|Kitesail Corsair||Spined Thopter|
|Deadeye Rig-Hauler||Lotus Path Djinn|
|Soul of the Rapids||Peregrine Drake|
|Ruthless Ripper||Pharika's Chosen|
|Extremely Slow Zombie (C)||Dire Fleet Hoarder|
|Dusk Legion Zealot||Necromancer's Assistant|
|Frenzied Goblin||Kruin Striker|
|Fanatical Firebrand||Brazen Buccaneers|
|Common Iguana||Ronin Houndmaster|
|Goblin Trailblazer||Borderland Marauder|
|Frilled Deathspitter||Ghitu Slinger|
|Hordeling Outburst||Splatter Thug|
|Squirrel Dealer||Chatter of the Squirrel|
|Jungleborn Pioneer||Byway Courier|
|Aerie Bowmasters||Grazing Whiptail|
|Overgrown Armasaur||Thundering Tanadon|
|Selfie Preservation||Aim High|
|Court Hussar||Esper Cormorants|
What the Pauper cube misses most compared to cubes with higher rarities is good one-drops. Savannah Lions is the classic one-drop, and while Phantom Nomad can be incredible with equipment, pushing a better one-drop in (alongside red's sweeping one-drop updates) should give red-white decks plenty to play early.
Desperate Sentry leaves behind a bigger token creature, but Martyr of Dusk trades better upfront and lifelink is a very nice touch for white-black decks looking to stay alive until the later part of the game.
Creature blinking on a common creature! Kabuto Moth is a classic cube addition that's more mental math and tricks than actually fun or powerful. It's on on-board trick that punishes folks who aren't the best at tracking complex battlefields. Ordinary Pony, unlike Cloudshift or Acrobatic Maneuver, also advances your battlefield and plays nice with all of the enters-the-battlefield creatures like Man-o'-War, Gravedigger, Scion Summoner and Inner-Flame Acolyte.
A 3/3 flying with a sorcery option to be a Whitemane Lion too versus 3/3 flying with first strike: This choice is totally up to you. Chivalrous Chevalier being easier to cast than Plover Knights is minor wrinkle—this is texture for more bouncing/value fun. Also, complimenting your opponent is a worthy endeavor.
The math on GO TO JAIL is pretty straightforward: It's 1-in-6 chance to pop any given turn—16.7% odds, pretty reasonable—and over several turns the conditional probability to keep something locked up is fair. As Frank Karsten explained:
"But how likely is it for your creature to have broken out after X upkeep triggers? For questions like these, it's usually easier to look at the opposite: The probability that your creature will still be in jail after X tries. This probability is given by 5/6 to the power X. Using this, the probability that you are no longer in jail after X tries is then 1 minus that number. Rounding to one decimal, this yields 16.7% after one try, 30.6% after two tries, 42.1% after three tries, 51.8% after four tries, and so on.
If you're familiar with probability theory, then you may have recognized that this card's process yields a nice example of a geometric distribution. Hence, the probability of breaking out on exactly the Xth try is described by 5/6 to the power X-1, multiplied by 1/6. In expectation, your opponent needs 6 tries to break out their creature. That's good value for a single white mana."
Test of Faith was a solid blowout when it happened, but with so many powerful pieces of removal the extra counters were often less valuable after the fact, assuming we cleared the Test to begin with.
There was a time I ensure every color had a specific artifact Phyrexian mana creature that could, with life payment, be cast for just colorless mana. I think the need for that level of granular balance was overkill, so instead the closest option for a flying two-drop in blue outside of Vaporkin and friends and Carnivorous Death-Parrot makes sense. Kitesail Corsair having the option to block on the ground is relevant too. It's a solid compromise to have evasion and trading as choices.
Lotus Path Djinn has served well, providing great Mind Games when set up well, but I'd like to try a twist on the bouncing mechanic. Most bounce in aggressive decks is better before combat to clear out a powerful defender. Here, it's a choice to either Recycle our own value creature (a minor theme in white-blue I'm obviously nudging this update) or reset an expensive (tapped?) creature from an opponent. Deadeye Rig-Hauler as 3/2 for just four mana is also a solid size in blue.
Instead of Peregrine Drake as a "free" 2/3 with flying, how about a 3/2 flying with hexproof instead? Soul of the Rapid's five-mana commitment will be very different from casting the Drake, but getting a hexproof, evasive creature is a clean way for blue tempo bouncing to race ahead.
Drag Under was solid delay with a cantrip attached. Waterknot is a second copy of Claustrophobia in the cube. One slows an opponent down; the other just answers it. You might choose the other way, but this looks like a clear removal upgrade.
Ruthless Ripper is strictly better than Pharika's Chosen. I don't think I need every one-drop deathtouch creature in the cube.
Extremely Slow Zombie (C) has last strike. I don't think last strike is good. In fact, I suspect this "two-drop that helps fill in an early curve for slower blue-black and black-green decks" slot I keep playing with won't settle soon. But a 3/3 for two mana is hard to ignore, and definitely plays well with aggressive decks too.
Dire Fleet Hoarder was always on borrowed time.
Want more value? Dusk Legion Zealot as "mini" Phyrexian Rager looks good, even if it's really just a discounted Merchant of Secrets. Slower control decks will want every extra card they can get. Necromancer's Assistant is good too, but I think people will want to draw another card over milling away three, even if it helps fuel delve.
Also, the "putting stuff in the graveyard matters" did not work out as a theme.
While you unpack your pitchforks and light your torches for the mob, I want to note that burn has plenty of action and is consistently a powerful way to end the game out of a red deck. Incinerate is the least exciting burn spell, and Jackal Pup as a one-drop makes all your other burn spells better.
It's okay to put your pitchforks away.
Kruin Striker was awesome if you got to sequence it with token making. The rest of the time, it was just okay. Frenzied Goblin makes blocking harder, draws removal like a magnet and is a one-drop. It's an all-in-one aggro package!
Fanatical Firebrand is Raging Goblin. Fanatical Firebrand is (mostly) Mogg Fanatic. It's Fanatical Firebrand, coming to the Pauper cube near you. More importantly, it provides a push down in curve that also has utility outside of the first turn—the thing that's kept Raging Goblin out. Brazen Buccaneers might come back, but the four- and five-drop slots are pretty crowded already, and as a not-guaranteed-to-be-a-3/3 the Buccaneers have been a little more wide-ranging in value than desired.
With the curve pushing down and so many one-drops making their way in, giving a little something to slow them down or help non-aggro red decks makes sense. Common Iguana is basically a black-bordered creatures as here it's just a 1/3 that lets you filter a card away when it enters the battlefield. (See Ordinary Pony.)
Robin Houndmaster is solid and all, but big haste creatures is where the hits are at. Now your third turn can be spent on casting a two-drop and a one-drop.
I like Borderland Marauder, but the menace of Goblin Trailblazer should be a nice get for aggressive red curves. It's now possible go to reasonable one-drop into reasonable two-drop menace, putting a ton of pressure on opponents to use removal or get blockers down—keeping the red deck in control of the pace.
I've been down on Ghitu Slinger for some time. Almost always it's a three-mana Shock that doesn't do anything else. Six mana for a Gray Ogre and Shock is a little expensive in modern Magic. (See Storm Fleet Pyromancer, Feisty Stegosaurus, et al.) But Frilled Deathspitter is in a nice intersection: three power in a three-drop that also Shocks an opponent when it gets hit. Trading up and getting extra damage in is good value.
Splatter Thug is great as a 3/3 with first strike, but the fact you can't block makes it hard to use from behind. Hordeling Outburst not only combos with all the Trumpet Blast effects, it helps red go wide like no other color. It can buy a lot of time on the ground, and obviously gets better with equipment too.
Spend one green mana, get two 1/1s versus spending three mana over two turns for the same? It's an easy deal to swap in Squirrel Dealer for Chatter of the Squirrel since I have a friend who adores Squirrels and, therefore, I will always get the benefit of two.
And if you don't want your cube to have the Unstable squirelliness, then wait for my stand-alone post on making Un- work for the serious.
Making three power for three mana is easy, but getting that in two creatures for token decks is pretty handy. Jungleborn Pioneer also makes a Hexproof 1/1 instead of your usual token, putting it as a good candidate for Rancor or a combat trick. I'll miss Byway Courier, but tokens are sweet.
I forgot Aerie Bowmasters existed, and is strictly better than Grazing Whiptail. Thank you to the dozens of players with better memories that reminded me many, many times.
When anything hits Overgrown Armasaur, you get a 1/1 Saproling. A fourth-turn Tanadon stopped being exciting awhile ago, and Peema Outrider is already in the cube as a 4/4 for trample without the four life payment. This swap should be more fun, particularly with so many fight spells in green.
It's almost like it's a planned synergy or something.
Did you know Rampant Growth is too good for Standard? Mark Rosewater said it so I've stopped hoping for an unconditional two-mana basic land ramp spell. However, Selfie Preservation is just that assuming you choose your cube lands wisely. Or draw little sharpie trees on them.
Fun facts: Did you know that the Unhinged basic lands are the only cycle of the Un- lands that feature a tree on every one? Did you also know that the Amonkhet and Hour of Devastation full-art lands cycles also feature a tree on every one? (You're welcome!)
Esper Cormorants stopped being exciting years ago when both white and blue started getting plentiful 3/2 fliers for four mana. While there's something to be said for Aethertow and Hussar Patrol, the new-to-common Court Hussar draws a card. Everyone likes drawing cards!