Based on various and sundry Draft smashing and Sealed dueling I can safely say that New Phyrexia is totally badass for pauper. The number and diversity of interesting cards, as well as the strange-yet-refreshing Phyrexian mana mechanic, make things very difficult to deal with: there is a lot of potential for pauper cubes in the set.
I can’t take whole credit for the following changes: Seth Burn, Alex Ullman, and Usman Jamil all provided input or feedback for developing changes as well. Without community feedback and development perspectives from others, cubing would be both boring and bad.
I really couldn’t do it without them, and readers like you.
Aside from the requisite New Phyrexia changes for the cube, red specifically is receiving a bit of a face-lift. It already has great burn as that’s what red does best at common. However, to make red creatures more compelling was a goal I started into after tweaking blue. I already added several creatures with haste, giving red the power of surprise and cracking back for more damage than expected. I want red to have other tricks and sources of card advantage, primarily through smarter and trickier creatures.
You can also browse the complete list through DeckStats.net here.
After you’ve checked out the changes, feel free to comment and share your thoughts! I’m all ears for more input, suggestions, ideas, experiences, and thoughts. Without further adieu, on with the show!
I didn’t make it explicitly clear during my review of the Legionnaire so I’ll clarify here: you will always cast this on turn 2 if the opportunity is there, however the “worst case scenario” of paying full retail later in the game is perfectly acceptable. (And thanks to Alex Ullman for pointing this discrepancy out.)
Glint Hawk Idol was pretty awkward in a cube not saturated with artifacts, though dodging sorcery speed removal is often underrated.
With an actual three power for three (or two) mana with first strike coming in I feel safe taking the Opal dork out. It was a fine addition but skilled players were able to play around it most of the time.
Testing in its place is the powerful, and easily splashed, Apostle’s Blessing. Pseudo-Shelter (Pro Tip: Blessing can’t target opponent’s creatures) out of almost nowhere promises to make combat a little more exciting. (This message directed to Seth Burn and Alex Ullman; I hope you guys agree.)
I really like Wind Zendikon. It functions as a very cheap creature with haste most of the time, and the fact that’s it’s a signed foil in my cube makes it twice as sexy. (I’m a sucker for that, what can I say?) But it’s an awkward color for it, and ties up a land.
Spined Thopter is a very similar card that can be used by hyper aggressive decks as well as a “two power for two mana with flying” for blue.
Double Header has been surprisingly powerful. However, Spire Monitor functions even better by just killing a creature (if you cast it to surprise block with it), instead of just bouncing it, and is easier to cast to boot.
If there were more bounce lands from Ravnica, Double Header would probably stay; it does actually say “target two-word permanent” which is an insane blowout against all of the bounce lands.
For a modest shift in blue mana requirement, we swap a weak/strong binary, conditional body into an effective hitter that will always force an opponent to block. And in dream scenarios, getting to Lightning Bolt an opponent’s face then Ancestral Recall, all for the discount price of four mana in blue, is a dandy.
Ophidian hasn’t done anything that I’ve wanted it to, and Scroll Thief is actually superior in almost every circumstance.
The blue Souleater can be a simple Gray Ogre if needed to trade, or a powerful closer given any equipment or enhancing enchantment. The single blue mana requirement is paltry later in the game, and paying two life when something like a Bonesplitter is equipped will almost always be worth it. The longer the game goes the more it reads as just an unblockable dude for decks.
Sinkhole hasn’t done much since most of the bounce lands were removed. It’s also cumbersome (Read: nearly impossible) to cast reliably on turn 2.
Blind Zealot has the same double-black requirement and functions far better in a format without liberal use of artifacts. It will hit like a slower Hideous End with a much larger potential upside of total damage.
While I like everything the Form does flavorfully (empowering with the Shade mechanic and saving your creature from death), it pulls towards the hyper-linear monoblack archetype I don’t want to support.
Geth’s Verdict is roughly a Diabolic Edict with a bonus, and swapping it in for the Form keeps the double black costs flat.
(Bonus: Special thanks to Blake Stearman, of SurrealMemoir.com, for helping with this particular piece of pimp!)
Child of Night isn’t evasive and generally trades with a random dork. It’s alright, but not very exciting.
The Vault Skirge, however, is evasive and supports general aggro decks even more, especially since it can serve as a 1-drop given the chance. Like Porcelain Legionnaire, you won’t often have it on turn 1, but you’ll still gladly play him whenever he appears.
Nim Replica is very weak, particularly since “damage on the stack” left the game. Pith Driller is a solid twist on Cultbrand Cinder, and will definitely support control archetypes in general; removal-on-a-stick is always enticing and powerful.
I kinda like the Minotaur (Hey, sweet Minotaur!) but the fact is that he trades like a chump… and that’s it. If he’s hitting your opponent for five you’re probably winning way ahead anyway, regardless of land loss.
However, the Bladescout is something more. Whether it’s the “worst case scenario” of pseudo-haste by dropping it at the end of your opponent’s turn, or sneakily slipping it down as a combat trick/blocker (or even both), I believe the Bladescout will see a lot more play for the same mana cost.
This is painful, as cards from Planar Chaos tend to hold soft spots in my heart, but Stingscourger just isn’t cutting the mustard. The only things red needs to bounce it can’t target anyway. And tying up six mana over two turns for a meager 2/2 hasn’t felt good either.
Shortcutter can’t target what ‘Scourger couldn’t bounce, but it does let red ram more damage through in most cases. In combination with other aggressive colors, keeping a hefty or awkward blocker out of the way can make combat math a potential nightmare for opponents.
I’ve been looking at Skitter of Lizards since Worldwake was released because I wanted more red 1-drops, and unlike Raging Goblin the Lizards scale with being a top deck late in the game. In considering both multikicker and kicker to distill how the keywords function in the cube, I realized that I was overlooking some simple reads, like Pouncing Kavu.
For three and double red you get a 3/3 with first strike and haste, a bargain price and rivaled in similar stats by Plover Knights. This seems like a very obnoxious guy to deal with and being able to strike immediately is a powerful draw.
Fangtail is a fine pinger but most decks liked him as a Hill Giant rather than utility pinger. Plus, red has enough other burn and pingers already.
Aftershock hasn’t been an answer most decks have desired. In fact, I rarely see it played at all.
Skirk Shaman, however, is an evasive beater in a color that needs some creature support. White gets Amrou Seekers; red has this similar card that seems worthy of inclusion.
The Spellbomb has been glitch from the start, and has never performed for red as a color. Promoting Kuldotha Ringleader to a full-time gig in the cube leaves room to swap the Spellbomb out.
Slash Panther can be a colorless four (and two life) and a 4/2 with haste. I’ve heard some good things, and since my experience with seeing it so far has been a bit underwhelming this is an excellent card for the Test Lab.
There is so much land fixing in green that forestcycling isn’t really needed. Maul Splicer provides the same amount of power but in a diversified package with trample to boot. I feel this will be an excellent ramp target, less powerful than Ulamog’s Crusher but certainly more difficult to solve outright.
The word is out: Pristine Talisman is as good as I predicted. In a cube without the worry of defeat via infect, the Talisman will help incrementally grind out some time for control strategies and help stabilize in a racing situation. Oh, and it mana ramps too.
Scuttlemutt is a fine card but with so many “colorless” creatures coming in the body and color-fixing nature of our favorite Scarecrow is no longer needed.
Test Lab Update
White: It was handled above, with Apostle’s Blessing taking the slot from Opal Knight.
Blue: Capsize remains in as it needs more testing; Pristine Talisman should help this.
Red: With the enhancements to red aggro and a theme, Kuldotha Ringleader will continue to be a finisher/supporter. Pyrite Spellbomb is being cut to test Slash Panther, as described above.
Green: Viridian Emissary feels right and closer looks will be made at green creatures to determine if something else can go.
Artifact: Flayer Husk is pretty sweet. Additional changes to artifacts will be reviewed shortly.