The Magic 2013 Pauper Cube Update!

September 8, 2012 1 comment

The wait is over. I’ve posted a short, sweet, and informative Magic 2013 update at Gathering Magic.

Enjoy.

The Pauper Cube and Avacyn Restored

June 4, 2012 8 comments

Let’s keep it short, sweet, and saucy.

I’ve written a thorough but brief update for Avacyn Restored.

If you want to cheat, skip to the full spoiler. You’ll be missing tons of awesome data and mana curves.

And yeah, that’s all there is to it!

The Dark Ascension Update Only Zombies Could Have Held Their Breath For

March 8, 2012 1 comment

If you missed that I have taken over the mantle of leadership for Gathering Magic I have some news for you: I’ve been busy.

Without further delay, you can find the complete update for the Pauper Cube with Dark Ascension in this article at Gathering Magic.

Feel free to leave comments here, or there, or anywhere you find Stybs. Enjoy!

A Token of Appreciation

November 14, 2011 4 comments

I’m not normally one for the slow roll, but when you’ve got the goods and want to milk something for all it’s worth it can be useful. A week ago I started tweeting obtuse hints. Some were more direct than others, but it’s time to reveal the truth.

That’s right: I’ve copied some of the biggest names in Magic. In the style of LSV’s or Conley’s token, and the fun of the Yo! MTG Taps! token pair, I’m sharing with you a way to play with the Stybs everywhere you go!

If you want to get your hands on one of these bad boys just make the time to meet me at Worlds, this Thursday through Sunday! Not going? No problem!  I’ll be working out the best way to get a copy in your hands, and it will probably involve and address swap. The details will follow.

Until then, enjoy considering the implications of attacking with me! (And, please, no chump blocks.)

This wouldn’t have been possible without the efforts of the quite classy Inkwell Looter, so send any praise or scorn for art (and photographs) his way.

PS: You should also visit Gathering Magic today. It’s important for me too.

Categories: Uncategorized Tags: ,

The Horrors of the Innistrad Update

October 17, 2011 10 comments

It’s no secret that Innistrad is loaded with pauper cube goodness. The combination of readers like you clamoring for this update breakdown, diversity and relative power among many of the commons, and incredible Limited environment that allows so many different angles of attack to shine have all coalesced into the perfect storm.

Innistrad is freaking awesome.

This update was one of the largest updates yet (19 cards from the new set), and many of the changes were a challenging decision to grapple. My sincere thanks go to Usman Jamil and Alex Ullman for helping shape my overall goals, with additional props to Sam Stoddard and Eric Klug for feedback on the fly as decisions were made.

The usual documentation, and cheat sheet, are here:

If you’re ready, let’s rock some horror!

White:

Out: Judge Unworthy
In: Bonds of Faith

Judge Unworthy has been trickling out of other cubes for some time, and it’s time has come for mine. I already discussed Bonds of Faith at length so I’ll spare that discussion here, but I will say that I am not exciting to continue etching away at the last bits of instant speed removal in white. I love Totem-Guide Hartebeest, but White needs more variety than just anti-creature Auras.

Out: Assault Griffin
In: Thraben Sentry // Thraben Militia

When I first saw Thraben Sentry I knew I wanted to give it a try. Assault Griffin is fairly average evasion in a color filled with evasive bodies. I’m not sure how Thraben Sentry will work out, but I’m optimistic that it will create interesting decisions and enhance the value of cards like Goblin Legionnaire, Sakura-Tribe Elder, and Mogg Fanatic.

Out: Stonehorn Dignitary
In: Village Bell-Ringer

I had high hopes for Stonehorn Dignitary when I added it in the last update. While he’s certainly blanked many powerful combat steps, and made at least one Blastoderm slightly more manageable, four mana has just felt like too much far too often.

Village Bell-Ringer has been a pleasant treat to play with, allowing both the instant speed block and battlefield untap to multi-block blow out your opponent. The card also features a man ringing a bell, so there’s that.

Blue:

Out: Essence Scatter
In: Claustrophobia

Blue is the weakest color for creatures, followed closely by black and red. However, blue is also the weakest for direct removal, completely opposite of black and red. Essence Scatter is a fine piece of “removal” but it’s also extremely conditional. Claustrophobia handles the far-more-often case where something already made it to the battlefield.

Out: Cloud Spirit
In: Stitched Drake

This change breaks my heart. I really love Cloud Spirit and the two cousins it inspired. But a 3/4 with flying that can block anything is a deal when it costs just about the same as our venerable 3/1.

The point I’d like to slip in here is that Stitched Drake could also be considered to replace Wormfang Drake, as that comes with the not-so-inconsequential risk of being a two-for-one with a crafty opponent and instant speed removal. However, Wormfang is also incredibly powerful when it isn’t a blowout which is far more often the case. Both Wormfang and Stitched have conditional requirements on casting, but both absolutely destroy other creatures at the same casting cost.

What I’m trying to say is that Stitched Drake is the new Skywinder Drake: give me more variants!

Out: Impaler Shrike
In: Makeshift Mauler

Blue doesn’t usually get respectable bodies on the curve. A 4/5 ground-pounder is nothing to sneeze at, and will certainly find more use regaining control of a game than a fragile 3/1 with flying that makes you want to sacrifice it. It also feels nice to get some use out of a body you chump blocked with earlier.

However, I do enjoy it when Act of Treason and other steal effects get into the card drawing game. I am sad to see the unique effect of the Shrike disappear, but blue benefits greatly from the Mauler.

Black:

Out: Ruthless Cullblade
In: Vampire Interloper

This is a pretty straightforward upgrade: a conditional 4/2 is less sexy than a flying 2/1. It’s important to note that blue and white have plenty of flying creatures to block an interloping vampire; flying is far less effective than fear, intimidate, or shadow in black, and I anticipate that our Interloper will be blocked a little more often than may appear at first glance.

Out: Geth’s Verdict
In: Dead Weight

Geth’s Verdict was often dead weight in games. This change is as poetic as it’s pleasing.

“Edict” effects (a player must sacrifice a creature) play well when boards are clear, decks are relying on getting the next best guy in play first, and only winning with a bomb or two. The pauper cube doesn’t play out that way, and instead most boards end up with a few stray creatures that can afford to be pitched. It isn’t that targeted removal is always better, but that this cube environment marginalizes the “one big bomb” path to victory.

Out: Terror
In: Victim of Night

Terror kills just shy of 75% of creatures in the cube. Victim of Night kills about 95% of creatures. Do you need more information?

Red:

Out: Chandra’s Outrage
In: Traitorous Blood

Red has plenty of burn, with Chandra’s Outrage topping the charts in terms of efficiency (you basically get six damage for four mana on one card). Traitorous Blood is an Act of Treason variant, and it plays into red’s attack strategy in a different way than the Outrage. I’m not sure this change is the absolute best, but creatures with four or more toughness can breathe a sigh of relief (as creatures with four or more power get a little worst in general against red decks).

I can share that I already experienced a truly outrageous blowout to this card already.

Out: Dead // Gone
In: Brimstone Volley

As a casual gamer and purveyor of all formats funky, I really dig cards like Dead // Gone. Split card giving an effect that completely unexpected in a color? Sign. Me. Up.

However, that doesn’t make the entire card good. Brimstone Volley is a fair burn spell that gets wicked efficient under a very normal condition in pauper cubing: a creature died. For comparison, Char deals less damage and a self-inflicted wound for the same cost. I like the two-mana burn spells, even the slower Volcanic Hammer and Fire Ambush, and Dead //Gone will just never do the job that a fully charged Brimstone Volley would.

And I still think I’d like Brimstone Volley undercharged over Dead // Gone as well.

Out: Viashino Bladescout
In: Crossway Vampire

This, too, was another hard decision. I like tricky cards, such as Dead // Gone, because how valuable a genuine trick can be in a format of absolutes. Removal absolutely kills most creatures. Counter magic absolutely stops any spell. Bladescout promised nothing outright, but functioned in so many clever ways that I was always surprised by it.

But it also often failed to deliver. And beyond the first appearance in a match, the value of the trick significantly decreased. A trick is good only when it’s hidden, unknown, and unexpected. Crossway Vampire is an absolute: that creature can’t block this turn. But it’s an absolute effect on a fairly efficient body. I’m willing to take a shot.

Out: Keldon Vandals
In: Pitchburn Devils

I really tried to like Keldon Vandals. Red is a color that wants to curve our aggressively every game. Vandals stop that curving cold, and far too often found no relevant target for the attached Shatter.

Picthburn Devils are how a true “punisher” mechanic works: I get a 3/3 in a format filled with 2/2’s, and when it dies I dish out a free Lightning Bolt. And it’s splashable. And it’s fairly costed for stapling the two cards together. And it certainly doesn’t suck like a certain other Devil.

Green:

Out: Trained Armodon
In: Ambush Viper

While I like it when I realize that the correct pick in a pack is a vanilla 3/3 for three, no one will argue that Ambush Viper is totally freaking awesome.

Why not cut one of the other vanilla 3/3’s for three? Well, they’re foil and signed. So there’s that.

Out: Wildheart Invoker
In: Festerhide Boar

Wildheart Invoker always felt like a “win more” card. It breaks stalemates, yes, but green usually does that through sheer volume of threats. There are no shortage of good creatures, and no shortage of fatties. A good fatty was, generally, redundant.

Festerhide Boar brings an interesting question to the table: do you block a small fry or not? While a Hill Giant may not be terribly exciting, this is the green Gorehorn Minotaurs we’re talking about here. I see this guy breaking more stalemates in more interesting ways than the raging raptor rider ever could.

Out: Pouncing Jaguar
In: Prey Upon

Aggressive decks need one-drops, but Pouncing Jaguar never worked out the way you wanted. Echo destroys curving out. Prey Upon is a green removal spell, costs the same as the Jaguar, and helps correct the creature/non-creature imbalance in the color. Pure win.

Multicolored:

Out: Tidehollow Strix
In: Forbidden Alchemy

The little bird that could (kill a Blastoderm dead) just never found a home in blue-black decks. Plenty of removal, better creatures with flying, and more evasive critters were found at the same mana cost in both colors.

Forbidden Alchemy is a card currently seeing play in Standard since it’s an incredible piece of card quality: trading one card and three mana for the best of the next four is an amazing proposition in cube. With the black flashback, adding it to a deck with recursive effects (Hello Mnemonic Wall and Unearth!) is certainly a powerful proposition.

Out: Silkbind Faerie
In: Feeling of Dread

The tapping Faerie is a fair card, gives blue and white a reasonable tapper you’d actually want to put equipment onto, and could single-handedly stop two creatures at once (the one you tap, and the one you block). It’s a defensive card through and through.

The evolution of blue and white as a color pair in my cube took it away from control, as there are no Wrath of God effects at common in white or blue, and into a tempo-based aggressive decks. Tapping and bouncing dudes, evasion, and countering a few key spells allows blue-white to hammer just as hard as the traditionally aggressive black-red and red-green color pairs.

In a fortunate happenstance I was able to play the blue-white deck in a Winchester draft against Eric Klug, professional painter of card alters and skillful destroyer of Stybs in Magic. Feeling of Dread works exactly as I needed to completely dominate in a race that could have gone horribly wrong, removing his key blocker and attacker for two turns as a Blastoderm died staring at Guardian of the Guildpact.

His deck had answers for the Guardian, but I had positioned myself to win the race if he drew one. Feeling of Dread looks good so far!

Out: Shield of the Oversoul
In: Travel Preparations

The idea of an indestructible flying creature is a terrifying idea. There aren’t too many ways to kill it, right? Thanks to the plethora of Pacifism-type and exile-based removal, indestructible isn’t as badass as you might think. Shield never felt the bomb that Armadillo Cloak is, and there were only a handful of green-white creatures to go Superman with.

Travel Preparations is exactly the kind of green-white card the color pair needed. You want both colors to get the full effect, still get to win creature battles, and have a concrete way to upgrade utility guys, such as Sylvan Ranger, in something more formidable.

The Extras:

The following cards are also still in consideration depending upon if other changes are needed:

  • Rebuke – I’d like to get a little more instant-speed removal in white.
  • Daru Lancer – Big, morph, and first strike. It’s like bacon: delicious.
  • Spare from Evil – Is a global falter good in the color with the most Humans?
  • Skywatcher Adept – Aggressive blue with level up.
  • Morgue Theft – Recursion is really nice; more would spread it around.
  • Gerrard’s Irregulars – Slash Panther is very solid; the original should hold up well.
  • Wall of Roots – I keep seeing it do great things in cubes with higher rarities.
  • Moment’s Peace – Double Fog would be an utter blowout against so many decks.
  • Blazing Torch – True colorless removal with relevant creature type interactions!

The End Result:

Innistrad is making waves in cubes all over. The set is absolutely awesome for Limited, and that downward power across rarities is bleeding over into cubes.

Thanks, Wizards, for making my job so much harder. I hope fellow cube owners feel the pain too.

Bonding with Innistrad

September 21, 2011 15 comments

Innistrad, if you haven’t heard about it yet from under your rock on Mars, is the next Magic set slated for release. I’ll be down near DC and Charm City at this weekend’s Prerelease events, transforming some cards and carrying on like the overbearing excitable git that I am.

What’s stunning about Innistrad is how powerful, yet thoughtful, many of the new commons seem to be. Let’s look at just one of the new cards today: Bonds of Faith.

Bonds of Faith - 1W - Enchantment - Aura - Enchant creature - Enchanted creatures get +2/+2 as long as it's Human. Otherwise, it can't attack or block.

Bonds of Faith, at a glance, looks like a trap. It’s Pacifism for non-Humans, but a modest boost to Humans specifically. Obviously, this card is “strictly worse” than Pacifism, right?

Let’s get one thing clear: anytime anyone invokes the phrase “strictly better” or “strictly worse” you need to be very careful to examine what they’re saying. Pacifism and Bonds of Faith aren’t the same card, as defined by unique English names, but they also aren’t the same card, as defined by actual gameplay.

Bonds of Faith may or may not be a “good card” in Innistrad Limited. I don’t know yet, and we’re here to look at Pauper Cubes. For my Cube, the questions Bonds of Faith asks are:

  • How often will it function as Pacifism?
  • How does that compare to other removal spells?
  • Is the Human buff valuable?

Fortunately for you, I have answers to these questions.

How often is Bonds of Faith a Pacifism?

Answering this question is relatively easy thanks to a much simpler question: how many Human creatures are there in the cube? The rest is elementary. (Note, however, that this required me to add the subtypes for every creature into the cube spreadsheet. This was an hour or so of Gatherer drudgery, and I recommend doing that to check the current Oracle rules text for cards as many subtypes have changed over the years.)

Total Creatures: 203
Humans: 30
Percentage of Humans: ~15%

This means that roughly 85% of creatures get hit with Pacifism. If you want to tweak the percentages slightly you can account for creatures you can’t target (those with shroud or hexproof, Guardian of the Guildpact, etc.), but the point is clear: Bonds of Faith is, generally, Pacifism. But what does it mean to be “generally” a removal spell?

How does Bonds of Faith compare to other removal spells?

Every removal spell doesn’t remove every creature. Understanding what spells kill more, or less, creatures is just data analysis like above, and I could pull all sorts of interesting data on different removal spells. In fact, I’m considering calculating a “lethality” percentage that gives a percentage rank of how much a given spell kills.

That fun ditty (starting development of the cube equivalent of sabermetrics) is for another time. What I want to show today is that Bonds of Faith is not a trap, and to do that let’s compare it to the archetypical removal spell: Terror.

Terror - 1B - Instant - Destroy target nonblack, nonartifact creature. It can't be regenerated.

There are many different takes on Terror, so what bears out here is applicable to several more spells than just the namesake. Let’s ask the same type of question of Terror that we did for Bonds of Faith: for how many is Terror a creature killer?

Total Creatures: 203
Black Creatures: 36
Nonblack Artifact Creatures:
18
Percentage of Black and/or Artifact Creatures: ~26.5%

This means that just under 75% of creatures in my cube die to Terror. This also means that, on average, Bonds of Faith will be better at removing a creature than Terror and friends.

You read the correctly. Numbers, given proper context and calculations, don’t lie.

Is Bond of Faith’s buff for Humans useful?

Yes. This is a removal spell, as shown above, that is a binary, conditional creature buff. How useful it is it something much more elusive, an examination best left for fanciful situations involving best- and worst-case scenarios.

Meanwhile, I’ll just be putting a tweaked Pacifism on your dude. Thanks!

The M12 Update

August 2, 2011 10 comments

I seem to be saying this every set, but Magic 2012 is really sweet for pauper cubes. “The Pauper Cube” was originally a project called “The Pauper Multicolor Cube”. It played just like the train wreck you’re imagining.

Although I have better tools to use today (and could give a “multicolor cube” a second, better shot), this update marks another important milestone: I’ve trimmed five more multicolor cards from the cube.

Why trim five more cards? I want more consistency and less “gold gaffs” getting passed around. If cards aren’t getting picked or used then it’s time to rotate them, and the most underused cards for those requiring multiple colors.

The changes I’ve made are spicy, and I want to get right to it:

Here’s a cheat sheet of changes, with complete explanations below:

WHITE

Cut: Hyena Umbra
Add: Stave Off

Hyena Umbra was meant for two things:

  • Save a creature from future removal at the “shields down moment” risk of exposing yourself to a two-for-one. (Being only one mana meant that it was easier to play around removal or bait it into a counterspell.)
  • Help non-evasive utility creatures, like Civic Wayfinder, become more formidable.

In practice, Hyena Umbra served neither purpose: it was rarely played. While it would shine from time-to-time, the reality was that the Umbra just never made the difference.

Stave Off, as the newest member of the Shelter family, feels much better.  Still helps fight removal, still helps close games and make better trades, but now hides in your hand instead of sitting on-board to be played around. While we lose out on the potential mana efficiency of being able to cast it just when the mana is open, the surprise value can be much more devastating. As a bonus nearly every deck running White can put something like this to use, something Apostle’s Blessing has proven well.

Cut: Blinding Mage
Add: Gideon’s Lawkeeper

A 1-drop tapper is so much sweeter than a 2-drop tapper. The loss of one toughness is fairly irrelevant given that 1-drop tappers are brutal in aggro mirrors: either you burn your removal to take out their “removal,” losing tempo, or continue to play dudes and swarm over the defense, losing tempo as your best attackers and blockers are nullified.

Have I mentioned how sweet 1-drop tappers are? (Gavin Verhey recently leveraged Stormscape Apprentice in Winchester Draft. Blue-White is getting very powerful!)

Cut: Shade of Trokair
Add: Kabuto Moth

The Shade was an attempt to have more white 1-drops, but felt more like a clunky, fragile wall. The suspend never worked out well, and as a 1/2 4-drop it left a lot to be desired.

Kabuto Moth is something that seems similarly clunky, but that I’ve heard works really well in practice. Being able to add +1/+2 to a creature feels really nice when there’s so much burn dealing three damage. It also blocks like a champ, upwards of being a 2/4, and does it up in the air. Seems like another solid value-utility creature for the clever player.

BLUE

Cut: Sky-Eel School
Add: Chasm Drake

In a fast in-and-out cycling, Sky-Eel is being set aside for another, very similar creature. While the “loot effect” of “Draw a card, then discard a card.” is strong, even as just a one-time trigger, Chasm Drake is easier to cast and lifts a creature along with it on the attack, breaking stalemates and making combat more fun.

From my experiences with it in Draft so far, he’s stellar as a late game rip to punch through but feels as efficient as you’d like. Continuous value, even with something as marginal as repeatable Jump, is underrated.

Cut: Augury Owl
Add: Skywinder Drake

The Owl is certainly a fine card, and shifting up to three dead cards away for a fresh draw feels great. But a 1/1 with flying just didn’t do anything. Blue needs ways to attack better as a core color, and the third functional “3/1 with flying but can’t block non-flying” is so good I wrote three articles mentioning it as such.

Obsessed? Nah. Impressed.

Cut: Choking Tethers
Add: Frost Breath

Choking Tethers was meant to be a tool that helped slow the game down and give a breather to more controlling decks. It ended up being an uncounterable, defensive, cantrip tap effect for a single creature. It was unexciting, relatively weak, and awkward to play.

Frost Breath is a mini Sleep, shutting down two creatures for two combat steps; as a defensive spell, it’s great. But as an offensive it works just the same, and that blocker-clearing feature is something I’m looking forward to unleashing as well. Evasion isn’t the only way Blue can break a game open.

Cut: Looter il-Kor
Add: Plated Seastrider

This is perhaps the most questionable change, and it’s one I’m going to keep a close eye on. The Looter isn’t a bad card. In fact, given any piece of equipment the odds are fair that it will put the game away. Unblockable damage as you loot is solid, and protected by a few counterspells is a sweet spot to ride.

But our favorite Looter doesn’t block either. In trying to push Blue as a core color to draft, I’m trying out Plated Seastrider. Giant Tortoise version 2.0 is just the kind of roadblock a Blue deck needs. At four toughness it makes it much more difficult to be burned out.

If Blue is missing the card filtering that severely we’ll bring the Looter back, or reintroduce Merfolk Looter. I have a much healthier appreciation for that card after more than two boxes of Magic 2012 Winchester Draft.

BLACK

Cut: Innocent Blood
Add: Fume Spitter

I gave Innocent Blood a try. It never served its purpose well. Ideally, you pull the pants down on an opponent hiding behind a Guardian of the Guildpact or Calcite Snapper. Instead, you’d most often draw this into a locked or heated board, and have to decide if your worst creature was worse than your opponent’s worst. Awkward.

Fume Spitter is a 1-drop that comes as a removal package. This will almost always be handy, and leaving a -1/-1 counter behind makes the “chump block, sacrifice” option very sweet. Early or late, this guy is great.

Cut: Rotting Legion
Add: Mortis Dogs

As a shambling body of size, Rotting Legion rates in fairly high for Black in common. Coming into play tapped is a tempo short, but a 4/5 for just five is fine. It’s unexciting but relevant, able to take down a Stamping Rhino and unlive to tell the tale.

Mortis Dogs is a heroic little descendant of Hollow Dogs, but does so much more. Turn Giant Growth into a burn spell! Make equipment absolutely frightening! Is it almost Lava Axe or an overpriced Shock? The risk-reward feature of our favorite new Hound makes it a compelling card to play with or against. Attacking with Mortis Dogs is always an adventure, and I can’t wait to see where it goes!

RED

Cut: Dragon Fodder
Add: Gorehorn Minotaurs

I wanted to like Dragon Fodder. Originally meant to feed the devour mechanic of Jund, instead we made two 1/1’s that either chump blocked or died being blocked. That’s a pretty good deal for just two mana in Red, and Mogg War Marshal is a hero for his ability to defend, deter attacks, and slip in for a little damage. Just two dudes isn’t the same.

Gorehorn Minotaurs is a Hill Giant that can outperform Rhox Brute for the cost. Dropping a 5/5 into play is a stellar move, thanks to bloodthirst 2, but having “just” a 3/3 still works. Unlike Dragon Fodder, I’ll always be happy to cast this regardless of the board state: a 3/3 for four is “fair” and sufficient.

Cut: Hulking Ogre
Add: Blood Ogre

A 3/3 for three is just fine, but a 3/3 with first strike for three is a bargain. Hulking Ogre compares poorly to Blood Ogre, and that’s all the comparison we need.

Seriously. Blood Ogre is a beast!

GREEN

Cut: Hungry Spriggan
Add: Thundering Tanadon

Hungry Spriggan isn’t a bad card. In fact, it’s arguably better than one of the later additions I’ll discuss below. But green seems to be pulling its weight, and then some. What I want to do is subtly shift green to include more spells (a difficult task given green’s obvious creature-focused strengths at common) and subtly downgrade a select few creatures to be strong, but not the strongest (a slightly-easier-but-still-tricky task).

Thundering Tanadon is just such a slightly downward-lateral creature. It can be destroyed with artifact removal, “stolen” in drafts by non-green decks, and often comes with a two or four life payment. It’s a great creature, but much more risk-reward than the Spriggan.

Cut: Werebear
Add: Arachnus Web

Werebear has been a bit of an underperformer. Not the best at mana ramping, and all-too-often you’re shy of threshold. In a word: awkward.

Arachnus Web is a Green Arrest. When almost every creature in the cube has less than four power, Arachnus Web is as good as it gets.

Cut: Withstand Death
Add: Reclaim

Withstand Death has withstood two updates already, though it should have come out much sooner. It’s uninteresting and hasn’t served the purpose of providing excitement in combat as I would have liked. The weakest of the green combat tricks included, it was time to go.

Reclaim, however, is very interesting. Green already has one  recursion card (Evolution Charm), and Reclaim looks to be able to play much the same way. Unlike some recursion effects, this one can put anything back on top. Blue just got a powerful new card, whether it knows it yet or not.

MULTICOLOR

This section deserves a slight clarification upfront: multicolor is dying in my cube. It’s there, and it has some interesting things, but the section has been whittled away to a shadow of what it once was. At one time it was almost double the size of any individual color. Now, it’s slightly smaller.

Tuning the gold section of cubes is tough, but for an ardent supporter of multicolored cards it’s absolutely painful. Yet here we are. Making the right decision isn’t always sexy or appealing, and the on-going austerity measures for multicolor presence are absolutely correct.

Cut: Talon Trooper, Dimir Infiltrator, Kathari Bomber, Deadshot Minotaur, and Thrill of the Hunt
Add: Stonehorn Dignitary, Phantasmal Bear, Wring Flesh, Ruthless Invasion, and Trained Armodon

We are losing all of the following: a relatively weak creature with flying (Talon Trooper); a weak creature that never served as a tutor (Dimir Infiltrator); an awkward suicide critter (Kathari Bomber); a value-driven-but-often-cycled dud (Deadshot Minotaur); and a very weak pump spell (Thrill of the Hunt).

We are gaining the following: a unique and powerful effect for common (Stonehorn Dignitary); an aggressive-for-the-cost creature in a color that needs it (Phantasmal Bear); a combat-encouraging removal spell (Wring Flesh); a splashable blowout-maker for aggro (Ruthless Invasion); and another efficient body in the color full of them (Trained Armodon).

Stonehorn Dignitary is a unique effect on creatures at the common rarity. The four toughness ensures that he’ll be a solid backstop, and skipping a combat step as an “enters the battlefield” trigger ensure that bounce and Flicker-type shenanigans get stronger: Whitemane Lion, Kor Skyfisher, and Momentary Blink look even better.

Phantasmal Bear finally gives a solid 1-drop to Blue. While others exist, Blue’s first turn antics have primarily been of the Brainstorm variety. An early dude that can trade well is a welcome addition; getting in for a Shock or two of damage is even better.

Wring Flesh is a curious card. It’s not Disfigure, but it’s not something abysmal either. I suspect that Wring Flesh will become an under-the-radar removal spell, one that may not be picked over some aggressive bodies but can make a world of different for the right deck. Taking away three power is often all that’s needed to make a gang-block payout well. (Edit: I did it all for @nerdtothecore, Alex Ullman.)

Ruthless Invasion was a card I didn’t really use in Scars of Mirrodin Limited. There were too many artifacts far too often for it to actually bypass the opponent cleanly. More specifically, you every player basically played every Splicer from New Phyrexia that they could. You’re 1/1 can’t block? How fortuitous. In a more general pauper cube, however, this card is a slam dunk.

Trained Armodon is likely the most contentious point of this update. If I’m weakening Green slightly why am I adding another efficient body? I’m adding it because it’s a reasonable creature that can be replaced by Hungry Spriggan and others down the road. This guy is a safe pick that leaves room to go up. I wanted to make an update to Green without necessarily making it stronger, and this vanilla Elephant serves that purpose safely. The future is wide open.

And Then There Was None

What do you think? Is this update on track with your expectations? What did you, or would you, do differently? Most importantly: do you think I’m wrong? Share your thoughts and fire up the discussion!

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