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Fire Ambush

Boosh! The flames leap out at you from the doorway.
What do you you?

> Extinguish flames

You can’t extinguish the flames!
What do you do?

> Abscond from the flames

Huh?
Boosh! The flames leap out at you from the doorway.
What do you do?

> Avoid flames

You can’t avoid the flames.
What do you do?

> Escape

You can’t escape the flames.
What do you do?

> Take three damage

You take three damage and the flames subside. Ouch!
Ahead, you see artwork, labeled External Reference 42.

Fire Ambush, common from Portal: Three Kingdoms

There is a desk nearby.
A folder rests atop the desk.
What do you do?

> Search desk

The desk has two drawers, both are empty except for a lone SWEET CHARIOT SUGAR CUBE.

> Take sugar cube

You add the SWEET CHARIOT SUGAR CUBE to your inventory.
A folder rests atop the desk.
What do you do?

> Look at folder

The folder is a bit dusty and slightly curled from the heat, but otherwise undamaged.
The title is “Pauper Cube Cards.”
What do you do?

> Open folder

The folder contains many sheets of paper, each one titled “Card Review:” followed by what appear to be the names of cards.
The first page is CARD REVIEW: FIRE AMBUSH.
What do you do?

> Read the paper

CARD REVIEW: FIRE AMBUSH text is as follows:

Fire Ambush isn’t a particularly sexy card. In fact, it’s just a rename job on a similarly unsexy card: Volcanic Hammer, which is a red, two-mana (a red and colorless mana) sorcery that deals three damage to a target creature or player. It rates in solidly at “useful in Limited, borderline playable in Constructed monored burn decks,” and is ultimately forgettable. It’s utility role-playing (removal) and marginal reach availability at its finest.

The “forgettable” part is why custom card art (see Eric Klug altered art, External Reference 42) can be so important.

Red is often fairly boring as a color in cubes. Lay some quick beats with “dudes with drawbacks,” hitting until they can’t hit anymore, then burn the opponent out with anything left in hand. Games are miraculously quick in a world of shuffle-shuffle-tutor-trick-trump-trick trump-trump trump-tank hard-tutor-tank again-yawn cube drafts.

However, pauper cubes aren’t often that sort of environment. Battling with creatures and removal is, generally, the name of the game, with some side diversions into fatty ramping, reanimation, and deriving card advantage through what tricks are available. A splashable two-mana red sorcery that kills almost 90% of creatures is a very serviceable, if boring, spell.

All too often, however, this spell tables for awhile, languishing as “sexier” cards are drafted. Removal, while more abundant in Styborski’s pauper cube, is still a premium spell to nab. Killing creatures is almost always good, particularly when flying and shadow are so prevalent (again as in Styborski’s pauper cube).

Sorcery speed makes it more difficult to justify using, especially when considering traditionally splashed spells like Fireball or Terror. Slow burn spells often feels clunky and weaker just due to speed; if you’re going slow why not go for broke?

But that assessment is partially wrong.

An easy-to-cast three damage spell is a valuable asset in pauper cubes. Beyond killing most creatures it provides surprising reach in otherwise “thick” board states. While the “thickness” of a board state isn’t a traditional (or clearly definable) measure for games of Magic, it’s a term that is quite descriptive for many Limited games.

You know how Limited goes. Boards start to get cluttered, attack steps become required spots to tank, and games slow down. Using removal helps resist this inertia somewhat, but there are always more creatures than removal. (There has to be more creatures than removal, otherwise an alternate win condition would be needed as creatures wouldn’t serve that purpose all the time.)

Burn spells help break this not just through disrupting apparent stalemates but through reaching for the additional life. Making combat calculations based on complicated board states with a hidden, additional three damage post-combat rewards players who play sufficiently aggressively, and punished players who flirt a little too much with not blocking.

While, ultimately, spells like Fire Ambush will never be the star player in a Limited deck, the role they play makes them a vital cog in the workhorse of closing games out.

(Special thanks to Eric Klug for making epic alternate art on cards, as seen in External Reference 42.)

> Take the paper

You add the CARD REVIEW: FIRE AMBUSH to your inventory.

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Categories: Uncategorized Tags: , , , ,
  1. Chilean
    April 4, 2011 at 5:15 PM

    Nice to see an update… I am always check the page for one 😉

    I have only just seen the doors to this big world of altered card art opened and am excited about it.

    In other news, I have completed building your pauper cube and will be testing it out for the first time this evening!

    • April 4, 2011 at 5:27 PM

      Sweet! Let me know how it goes for you! I’m sure you’ll see things a little differently than me.

  2. Chilean
    April 4, 2011 at 5:31 PM

    I have meant to ask…
    I may have up to 9 people today (I know.. not ideal), and I was wondering approximately how many of each basic land should I have sleeved up and ready to go?

    • April 4, 2011 at 5:55 PM

      The cube is capped at 8, and around 50 of each basic will cover everyone.

  1. April 5, 2011 at 10:58 PM
  2. October 17, 2011 at 1:47 AM

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