This was not a Modern week for me; even Magic superfans get busy from time to time, and after navigating the DMV the other day I didn’t have the patience for several more hours in an enclosed space. So today I’d like to talk about Cube.

See, I have a cube. It’s a Pauper cube, and I’ve foiled out much of it, but it took me a while to get to a point where I could feel it was properly balanced. Would you like to see the list? Here it is!

Here are some basic stats you might not want to have to troll through a spreadsheet to figure out. It’s 420 cards, not for any cultural reasons but because I wanted to be able to do a full eight-person draft pod without including every card, to give it some variety. It’s a little more heavily multicolor than many cubes, with currently 54 slots devoted to each basic color, 50 slots devoted to gold cards, and 30 slots for “hybrid” cards. This last category is a bit interesting, because it’s full of cards you’re most likely to play in decks that represent both colors, but you don’t have to. There are three types of cards that show up: actual hybrid cards, cards with off-color flashback/kicker/activations, and Kird Ape.

Rounding out the cube are 35 lands and 35 “colorless” cards. I put colorless in quotes there because it’s mostly full of colorless artifacts, but there are five colored artifacts due to their Phyrexian mana costs, and a colorless non-artifact creature in Ulamog’s Crusher. The lands are more obvious in their inclusions: the karoos, the guildgates, the panoramae, the borderposts, the two fetches, two gold lands and Haunted Fengraf.


It was after Gatecrash that my cube found itself a real identity in this multicolor shift. Up until that point I hadn’t been able to fully commit to multicolor, since the gate cycle was unfinished and only half the guilds had a particularly deep pool. But I went wild on the multicolor at that point, making two structural changes. First, I expanded the section as a whole. Up until that point each multicolor combination had four slots total, plus several devoted to shard cards. Second, I spun “hybrid” cards out into their own section, leaving five slots for specifically gold cards and three spots for the less easily categorized cards. Functionally, this let me play gold cards in a few colors that had been dominated by high-powered hybrids (Klaus!), which lead to the multicolor section as a whole feeling more color-balanced.

Plus, it let me add in weird cards like Mortus Strider! Before, it was a little too high-powered when it was up against cards like Probe, but I like its inclusion because there are a couple of cards that combo nicely with a creature that just won’t go away.

Between expanding the multicolor section and just my general love for RTR and GTC draft, the cube has taken on a bunch of the key commons from those formats. Twenty of the 50 gold cards have been printed in these past two sets, and I think they’re all fairly strong additions. Part of this is just because R&D really nailed the Limited mechanics this time around. There isn’t a single one that feels inappropriately powered, and the Gatecrash ones in particular are all about my type of Magic: a type that rewards you for doing the things you already want to be doing. Plus, Gatecrash has given me a lot of respect for things like the importance of two-drop fliers, which helped me bulk out my blue aggro subtheme a little.


This is my top ten list of first picks in the cube, based on color and what-not:

1. Seraph of Dawn—It was a bomb common in AVR, and it’s still one of the most powerful cards for the cost.

2. Mulldrifter—The blue card so good that its name stands in for “creature that gives value when it enters the battlefield.”

3. Tortured Existence—Totally old-school card, some people refer to it as the “black Survival.”

4. Rolling Thunder—Another old one; it’s like Aurelia’s Fury, only mono-colored and at common.

5. Rancor—Shockingly, a card that repeatedly gives your team a power boost and trample is super-good.

6. Quicksilver Dagger—I know this one might be a bit of a surprise, but it’s the closest thing in the cube to Phyrexian Arena, so…

7. Branching Bolt—In Gatecrash Limited, Clan Defiance is a bomb rare for its ability to three-for-one; Branching Bolt is its little sister, usually getting you two cards for the price of one.

8. Jilt—Talk about value; this card is usually some sort of two-for-one, and in a sweet color combo.

9. Bonesplitter—Equipment is strong in most cubes, and this may be the strongest piece of equipment ever printed at common.

10. Ulamog’s Crusher—The absolute top-end of a pauper cube.

Now, keeping a cube together isn’t all easy choices; cubing involves a lot of tough picks and inclusions, particularly on the pauper level where there aren’t the same ridiculous spikes in power. Here are some of the cards I’ve had to cut since the project started, usually for being overpowered and absolutely no fun:

Pestilence—What were they thinking making this at common?! I kept Crypt Rats in, because the basic idea of having a black mass removal/damage spell is solid, but Pestilence being an enchantment makes it that much harder to handle. It was a slam first-pick, and it really disrupted the balance of the cube.

Sprout SwarmSprout Swarm takes over games, and unless you’re a blue deck there isn’t a great way to interact with it. Even if you do deal with the tokens, usually through something like Crypt Rats or Martyr of Ashes, your opponent most likely still has the spell in hand.

Evincar’s Justice and Capsize—Like Sprout Swarm, I cut these cards because the buyback put them way above the curve. Being able to (functionally) wrath every turn, or getting your opponent into a Capsize lock, seemed to be a less interactive way to win Magic, and that’s not the type of game I like to play.

Rukh Egg—As hilarious as I thought it was that the card was once printed at common (it was, check it out), it didn’t seem to me that red needed a solid blocker that turned into a giant bird when your opponent finally manages to deal with it.

Flood and Night Soil—I took out a number of old-school overpowered enchantments, only leaving in Tortured Existence because it was card-neutral and didn’t affect the board. Flood, on the other hand, can totally lock down a non-control deck, and that seemed like it would be bad for black aggro. Night Soil, meanwhile, completely hoses what little reanimation there is in the cube (four cards), while providing a solid stream of bodies for one mana apiece. It was too powerful, and had to go.


Finally, I wanted to mention a question of aesthetics. Early on I realized that my pauper cube was likely going to be low-cost at best, since I had been playing during most of the eras from which I drew. That gave me the idea to foil out my cube; it’s an act of pride, sure, but the thing looks rather beautiful for it. Unfortunately, it’s not completely foiled; some cards were never printed in foil, while others are prohibitively expensive. But I can get behind the project of foiling out something like an EDH deck or a cube, where you’re not going to have a lot of churn in its base structure and the thing as a whole looks better for it. Plus, when everything is a foil the warp factor that a lot of different foils go through seems less of a problem.

My next step is to foil out the lands, but that raises an interesting question of preference. Currently I have all Revised basics, 30 of each type, with the same image for each land. Generally, they’re the worst images; for example, I am using the blue Mountains and the white Swamps, because I have a weird sense of humor. If I were to switch over to foil lands, I would have to use a variety of different pictures and backgrounds. Now, maybe this diversity is a good thing! But if you have all the same land image, you shave the slightest percentage points off your opponent’s read, since they can’t tell how many of what basics you’re playing. And yet another factor is that the Revised basics warp a little less than most of the foils, which can potentially interfere with randomization in shuffling. It’s a work in progress, but that’s one of the things I like about having a cube: There’s always room to tinker.


(Photos by Dana Goldstein, licensed under Creative Commons)

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