Did you know Grand Prix Vegas is this week? I almost forgot.
Truthfully, it's been a busy two months since we updated the Pauper Cube with Modern Masters 2017 goodies. The upside is I've spent several lunches (three booster boxes of Amonkhet to be exact) drilling Amonkhet Sealed pools and decks with Jon Corpora. He writes and records a few things for the site each week, and when he picked up a PPTQ win it was an easy call to beat him up in Sealed.
Which is what actually happened. I lost count of things along the way, but I do recall losing just one (maybe two) matches total. Thankfully for him I wasn't qualified for the RPTQ he went to.
While the bragging rights around the office are great, it was playing with the commons repeatedly that matters here. Amonkhet is a great Limited format, particularly in Sealed. The power and synergy at common opens up multiple color decks as well as focused, two-color machines. It's fast enough to require a curve, but not punishing enough that late-game shenanigans are unlikely.
I'm also 100% sure having a solid winning record in the format has little to do with my rose-tinted goggles.
Before jumping into cards, here's a repeat of the basic info you need to catch up on my cube and what it's all about.
Typically, I use a boilerplate into to cover bases. Here I'll just bullet them out:
· The Shadows over Innistrad update covered archetypes and philosophy.
· Archetypes are important, and I refine them often.
· I use a Google Sheet to keep my cube organized. (Yes, I'm aware of alternatives.)
The Pauper Cube is bigger than what I do with it. I get questions around cards that are common-by-rarity-sheet-it-was-printed-on (see Maze of Ith, et al.) or available only in limited release (anything Portal: Three Kingdoms can be challenging to find), the relative power of archetypes (such as why blue is/isn't the best color) and what uncommons might make good choices as Pauper Commander commanders in a pre-draft packet. While my cube is a good starting point, you should feel free to adapt and update to suit what you need—and Fire Ambush isn't going to be something every cube needs.
There are plenty of commons worth considering in Amonkhet, but I'll keep it on point. Let's talk changes.
Tah-Crop Elite replacing Propeller Pioneer
I've been struggling with Propeller Pioneer since the Kaladesh update. Four mana for a 3/2 flier is average to okay. Four mana for a 2/1 flier and a 1/1 token looks silly next to the three mana options like Eldrazi Skyspawner. Tah-Crop Elite fills a similar flying role, but adds a wrinkle for tokens and the general aggressive curve white decks offer. I'm curious to see how this goes.
Compulsory Rest replacing Center Soul
I've liked the "protection from things" spells less and less. They are reactive, rather than proactive, which leads players to using them less often (for better and worse). Center Soul is especially awkward as a reactive spell since you may not have a follow-up attack on the next turn, essentially wasting the rebound. Compulsory Rest is Pacifism with "downside" but it's slightly clever here: Aggressive decks won't want it over other efficient removal, and control decks don't care about the life gain. A little tension should make decisions matter more in drafts.
Seeker of Insight replacing Laboratory Brute
Yes, Merfolk Looter is a more obvious card. But that's what makes Seeker of Insight so interesting: For the same mana cost, you get a reasonable blocker that encourages you to cast spells. While Laboratory Brute is fun for graveyards, it was more than what was needed. Seeker of Insight should be a fun addition to controlling decks.
River Serpent replacing Voidwielder
I've become fond of the aggressive cycling mana costs in Amonkhet. River Serpent is an excellent nod to graveyard-filling themes, a payoff card for a blue-based deck and an efficient way to dig early in the game when blue needs smoothing the most. Swapping out Voidwielder won't hold blue back from bouncing creatures, and for one mana more the range River Serpent offers is great.
Winds of Rebuke replacing Select for Inspection
Select for Inspection is great, so don't take this swap as a knock. Winds of Rebuke fills the graveyard instead of scrying, and it just a texture change to support self-mill.
Wasteland Scorpion replacing Rancid Rats
Rancid Rats have several versions already in the cube, and skulk isn't the evasive mechanic it needs to be. Instead, a fair-to-cycle Wasteland Scorpion that's also a deathtouch Grey Ogre should do just fine. Again, this is more texture change than anything.
Soulstinger replacing Okiba-Gang Shinobi
One of the things changes I've been phasing in slowly is removing discard effects. It's rarely perceived as fun, and generally results in either a blowout or lack of impact in game. Okiba-Gang Shinobi has been in the cube from the first day, but the blowout disappointment has always been high. Soulstinger is a likely two-for-one creature on blocking, and can be a 4/5 for the small price of shrinking something else. This should be a fair value trade for cutting such an iconic card.
Manticore of the Gauntlet replacing Brute Force
Brute Force is one of my all-time favorite cards from my all-time favorite Magic set, Planar Chaos. It's also one of the cards I've seen played little for far too long. Burn spells are generally better outright, so Manticore of the Gauntlet is a compromise to give another big creature in red that also chucks a Lava Spike for good measure when it hits the battlefield. Midrange decks looking for a little value should appreciate the Manticore.
Pursue Glory replacing Path of Anger's Flame
Pursue Glory costs a little more than Path of Anger's Flame for the same effect, except now you can cycle it away which should help it pop into a few more decks.
Cartouche of Strength replacing Borderland Explorer
I wanted to like Borderland Explorer, but its mana-fixing effect being mutual ended up feeling worse. Cartouche of Strength is a sweet little aura that has proven itself in Amonkhet Limited. Getting another spell swapped for a creature into green is a good trade.
Cutting all five spell lands: Sandstone Bridge, Skyline Cascade, Mortuary Mire, Teetering Peaks, Khalni Heart Garden
Even with the best of the spell land best, these were not exciting picks for players. These cuts just clean up a little space among the last picks in the cube.
There's a few more cards I'd like to touch on for the pauper cube coming out of Amonkhet.
Fan Bearer is awesome. It narrowly missed the cut for this update, but as an addition (or swap for Gideon's Lawkeeper, etc) it's entirely defensible. Mana sinks are few and far between in my cube, so the two-mana cost to tap is fairly moot for a deck planning to go long.
Unwavering Initiate is great rate: Three mana for a 3/2 with vigilance and embalm to boot. I wanted to like embalm but it's all costed correctly from what I can tell. The built-in two-for-one of embalm always comes with a high mana cost, but Unwavering Initiate is among the most aggressive costs. If Zombies didn't get such a tribal boost in Amonkhet I suspect some of the embalm costs could have come down further.
Aven Initiate: See Unwavering Initiate but add on the sentence "It's especially clear in colors that can play with the graveyard."
Forsake the Worldly is Disenchant with cycling. That's not enough to make the cut, but I'm well aware that there aren't Disenchant effects in the cube. It's a problem that could be solved by cheating and adding uncommon creatures with appropriate enters-the-battlefield abilities, but none of them have been printed on a commons sheet. Despite popular conception, I do have my limits.
Hieroglyphic Illumination is a card I wanted to get into the cube, but it's really not clear where it lives. I'm open to arguments for which spell it should replace, but I'm not trimming down any more blue creatures to made it work.
Doomed Dissenter is a card I can get behind. It's similar to Butcher Ghoul, except creating a token in lieu of coming back itself. This is on a very short list of cards to consider in the future.
Hooded Brawler is big game. It's a terrifying card to face down in Sealed, and the fact it upsizes enough to matter late in the game put its apart from other common exert creatures. Exert is really punished by instant-speed removal, however, so I'm not keen to pile it all into the mix. If Tah-Crop Elite works out well, Hooded Brawler may not be far behind.
Greater Sandwurm is a slam dunk ramp target, I just couldn't find the right cut to make. I think this is a card that belongs in my cube, and I'm confident I'll see the right swap soon. (Again, I'm taking suggestions below!)
|Tah-Crop Elite||Propeller Pioneer|
|Compulsory Rest||Center Soul|
|Seeker of Insight||Laboratory Brute|
|Winds of Rebuke||Select for Inspection|
|Wasteland Scorpion||Rancid Rats|
|Manticore of the Gauntlet||Brute Force|
|Pursue Glory||Path of Anger's Flame|
|Cartouche of Strength||Borderland Explorer|
Hour of Devastation is almost upon us, so I can't wait to get things fired up with even more commons. If the next set in Amonkhet block is like the first, we're in for some great value. See you then!