So, the Conspiracy full spoiler got released on Monday (link here), and boy am I disappointed about the legends. I mean, I called the inclusion of Edric, Spymaster of Trest, but I was expecting more fleshed out legendary cycles, and that was not something that the Wizard gods felt necessary to give me. I’m still psyched to draft this set, and plan to do so twice next weekend, and then report back, but in the meantime, let’s take a break from all the Conspiracy buzz to take one look back at Journey Into Nyx before we all forget that surprisingly entertaining set.


I maintain a pauper cube. I’ve talked about it before, it’s a pretty thing, all foiled out and balanced not to be the most powerful thing out there, but to reflect the themes of the latest blocks. Which is not to say that it is without its power, as there are plenty of cards in there that have stuck around for a long time, but I see it more as a place to play Aura Gnarlid in a heroic deck, or to put Aqueous Form onto a Kiln Fiend. These things are fun to me!

I added this card in last time I updated. It is brutal.

To those ends, I’ve made a fairly large update to my cube in the wake of Journey Into Nyx. I finally cut a column out of my multicolor section, to open up some more mono-colored slots for business. My multicolor section used to cover 80 cards; now it’s a more reasonable 70, but the structure stayed mostly intact. I’ve separated gold cards out from what I call the “hybrid” cards, as many (even most) of the “hybrid” cards can be played in monocolored decks. You probably don’t want to, but you could do it, and that was throwing off the count. So I lopped off one of those columns, bringing it down to five columns of gold cards and two columns of hybrids. And next time I feel the need to open up some more space, one of those gold columns will be the first to go.   Anyway, the opening up of two slots per color means this round has been a lot less about the direct substitution, and more about finding cards that would work well in this new, heroic-focused format, and I think I’ve largely done that. So, I’m going to go through these changes color by color, while keeping in mind this substition is not always going to be a straight one for one.



Loyal Pegasus

Lagonna-Band Trailblazer

Doomed Traveler

Oreskos Swiftclaw

Basilica Guards


Feeling of Dread (UW)

Ajani’s Presence


Aura Blast

Unmake (BW)


With white, what the cube mostly needed was some more play. Loyal Pegasus was an interesting card, but at the end of the day it just wasn’t performing as well as I had hoped. Replacing it with Lagonna-Band Trailblazer, a one-drop that would work well as a roadblock in slower decks, but could also do some dirty things in the heroic decks, seemed like a good call. I’m never going to put Yoked Ox in the cube, but sometimes you just want a Yoked Ox! Lagonna-Band Trailblazer meets this hole. Similarly, Doomed Traveler was a roadblock that replaced itself, and an aggro threat that was a little more persistent, if otherwise underwhelming. I replaced it with Oreskos Swiftclaw, because with three different 3/1s for 1W in the cube, the aggro deck can now be fairly certain of getting at least two of them each draft (my cube is 420 cards for some variety when we draft it; practically, it means you can’t absolutely count on key cards for different archetypes showing up without redundancy).

Sorry Yoked Ox, a Theriad quote isn’t going to save you!

The other changes were about supporting the things white wanted to be doing, while also lowering the power of the removal a tad bit. Alex Ullman wrote a really interesting article about removal in pauper cubes a few months back, and it’s gotten me to reign in the previously high ratio of removal to action in my cube. This meant taking out Sunlance and Unmake (which mostly ended up in black decks anyway), and replacing them with more situational cards. Aura Blast is good removal with a ton of bestow and auras running around in the cube, but it’s never going to be as powerful as a creature removal spell like Sunlance. And while Reprisal is no Unmake, it is good removal for the Voltron-esque monsters that come with the heroic theme.   But if you have heroic cards, that necessitates going deeper in on the combat tricks, and once you’re buffing one archetype you need to account for the other ones as well. That’s where Ajani’s Presence is in for Feeling of Dread. Both can trigger heroic, but with Ajani’s Presence you actually want to be using it on your own team, while Feeling of Dread has always been a weak tempo tool. Plus, indestructible helps minimize the power of removal in the cube, and as explained above I’m interested in that. Fortify for Basilica Guards was a bit easier; now with Lagonna-Band Trailblazer serving a dual role as speed-bump and heroic target, I could cut Basilica Guards in favor of a card that will be particularly good in the tokens subtheme that shows up in red and white. That card, obviously,  is Fortify, not that there’s a deck in which it’s not good.



Think Twice

Sigiled Starfish

Faerie Mechanist

Cloaked Siren

Frilled Oculus (UG)

War-Wing Siren

Forbidden Alchemy (UB)

Aerial Formation

Latchkey Faerie

Bone to Ash

At this time the faerie subtheme is a failure. It’s going to take me a little time to undo it all, and in the meantime cards like Spellstutter Sprite are going to stick around to nug one-drops, but on the whole it hasn’t been the successful experiment I had hoped for. As I should have learned from Modern Masters, to make a tribal theme successful in a draft format you either need a critical mass of the card type, which I tried for and failed to succeed in creating, or you need to augment it with the high-powered changelings. And since I was only going tribal in blue, changelings seemed like overkill. I’m not saying that this tribal theme will be gone forever, but in the meantime I am taking out Faerie Mechanist and Latchkey Faerie, two of the most parasitic of the faerie offerings. Cloaked Siren makes a good replacement for Faerie Mechanist, one for one, while replacing Latchkey Faerie with Bone to Ash, a card whose exclusion up until this point seems fairly unbelievable, maintains the card’s position as a four drop that should replace itself, while simultaneously giving blue another way to deal with some of the nasty creatures that have been introduced as of late.

This is probably the next faerie to get cut, although I didn’t feel a need to do it at the moment.

Right now there feels like there’s too much draw in the cube, so I took out Think Twice in favor of the selection and defense offered by Sigiled Starfish, and I replaced Forbidden Alchemy with Aerial Formation, a combat trick/overrun that helps blue maintain air superiority over the other colors. All that’s left then is Frilled Oculus, a mediocre card I had a soft spot for because of how much I loved Gatecrash; I’m replacing it with War-Wing Siren, a stat-similar creature that gains a lot from that extra point of mana.



Golgari Longlegs (BG)

Grim Guardian

Strangling Soot (BR)

Bloodcrazed Hoplite

Black, as it stands, is in a pretty good place. And even if it weren’t, I wasn’t the biggest fan of the common offerings to be found in Journey into Nyx. As such, I only filled the two slots gained from the hybrid design space, and I tried to bring in two cards that would help black be a companion color to any of the other heroic themes. Grim Guardian does this by rewarding you with an extra point of damage each time your Voltron, while replacing what was usually just a monoblack vanilla five-drop in Golgari Longlegs. Bloodcrazed Hoplite is a more direct nod to the heroic theme, although it has the added ability to nerf your opponents’ heroic dudes. As such, bringing it in was an easy call, as was taking out Strangling Soot, an irritatingly powerful removal spell.



Mogg Flunkies

Satyr Hoplite

Torch Fiend

Sigiled Skink

Wild Celebrants

Flurry of Horns

Fire at Will (RW)

Fall of the Hammer

Pursuit of Flight (UR)

Rouse the Mob

Sigiled Skink is my new favorite Goblin Piker. The ability to scry one every turn is surprisingly powerful, and my favorite aspect of the card is the way in which that simple scry one interacts with bluffing combat tricks. Unlike Goblin Piker and its other incarnations, it is actually worth throwing this thing into certain death to get that point of scry. And sometimes you’ll have the trick, and the “of course I’ll eat your creature” block suddenly looks a lot worse for your opponent. So adding it in was a no-brainer, it’s exactly the type of card that does well in my cube. Opening up space for it, I decided to cut back on the artifact hate. There aren’t a huge number of artifacts in my cube in the best of times, and the heroic emphasis has meant those artifacts that are in there are less powerful in the current context than they once were. As such, Wild Celebrants and Torch Fiend seemed unnecessarily hateful.

Trope-namer for the red 2/1 for 1R!

So, Sigiled Skink for Torch Fiend was easy, and I replaced Wild Celebrants with another five drop: Flurry of Horns. I like this card in my cube, because there are a lot of things that work well as is with red tokens, and two-power is relevant with Raid Bombardment in the mix. From there the changes were pretty straightforward: Mogg Flunkies is out in favor of the early heroic Satyr Hoplite, which can be even more aggressive than the flunkies since red is light on the one drops, and replacing Fire at Will, a potential three for one, with Fall of the Hammer, a very powerful one for one that leaves you open to getting blown out… it seemed like the right way to move things. Finally, Pursuit of Flight, while powerful and relevant to the heroic gameplan, was definitely a worse card than Jilt or Frostburn Weird, so cutting it seemed the right thing to do. It’s okay, though; replacing it with Rouse the Mob should allow for the early heroic plays that Pursuit of Flight used to excel in, while also giving the monsters deck a late-game way to push through damage.




Phantom Tiger

Snake of the Golden Grove

Nylea’s Disciple

Avacyn’s Pilgrim (GW)

Ravenous Leucrocota


Pheres-Band Thunderhoof

Scuzzback Marauders (RG)

Humbler of Mortals

The final five cards I am left changing out are all powerful things for the cube. The problem is that each one of these five cards could have been played in mono-green colored decks, and that was throwing my counts off. But I’m replacing five good creatures with five better creatures, thus solidifying Green’s identity in my cube as being the color with the best creatures. With the mana being easy enough for the gold strategies to play out, this seems like a good plan to follow.   So, Blastoderm has no place in a heroic world. I’ll probably put it back in at some point, but in the meantime it’s replaced with Phantom Tiger, a truly terrifying threat if you can get a toughness-boosting aura or equipment attached to it. Because it will never die. And that’s scary! Snake of the Golden Grove was cute, but I found that in Theros block limited I always would rather have Nylea’s Disciple over it. I think it’s both curve-related and due to the way you can count on the lifegain; your opponent giving you a 7/7 was always the worst mode of Snake of the Golden Grove. Avacyn’s Pilgrim needed to get cut because as pretty as the art may have been, it wasn’t really being used as a GW hybrid, so much as it was just another one-drop mana dork, and there were too many of those to keep being special. So it’s cut, and it opened up room for the Ravenous Leucrocota, a solid body that gets pretty gross once you hit seven mana.

It just seems like it should be so good!

Sporemound never lived up to my (fairly strident) hopes for it, and tokens was more of a red/white theme anyway, so I cut it in favor of a five-drop that reflected the heroic push a bit better: Pheres-Band Thunderhoof, a reasonable 3/4 that jumps to a 5/6 if you can enchant it. And, finally, we have Skuzzback Marauders, a five drop that usually pushed through damage twice before permanently residing in the graveyard for its suicidal tendencies. Humbler of Mortals offered a similar way to push through damage, but with high toughness, and in an effect applying to your whole team.   And that brings us to the end of our discussion, since there weren’t any common gold cards, and no common artifacts worth mentioning. I like being able to make a difference in my cube, though, and occasionally shaking things up helps create an environment where even I, as the cube designer, am not overly advantaged when we draft the thing.   Jess Stirba went 1-2 in her last Modern Masters draft.

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