The full spoiler of M15 just launched over the weekend, which basically makes this my last opportunity to talk about the update I made to my pauper cube after Conspiracy. The lag is intentional, or at least unavoidable; the all-foil nature of my cube means I have to wait until after the release to put the cards together for the update. These days I take the opportunity that this delay provides to actually see how the cards play in proper Limited, which has only dragged things out a little farther from the set releases. But I think it’s worth it. During M14 I thought Dawnstrike Paladin should merit a spot in the cube, but after playing with it in draft for a while I ended up going back on that decision pretty quickly.

I just thought this would be fun to suit up, but that extra mana is a deal breaker.

Anyway, I took the opportunity provided by Conspiracy’s irregular draft environment to do another overhaul of the multicolor nature of the cube. I cut a gold slot this time, bringing each color combination down to four gold cards and two “hybrids,” which by my definition includes cards ranging from Pit Fight, to Darklit Gargoyle, to Dismantling Blow, to Kird Ape.

Is this guy really going to be played in a deck that’s not playing forests?

The ten slots this opened up were divided between artifacts and non-artifacts. Each color ended up with one more slot, and the artifacts got five. When I was doing this overhaul, though, I noticed that at some point green acquired an extra slot, seemingly from the lands section, so I fixed that as well. The artifact update was due to my desire to try out a few of the “making drafting more fun” cogworks from Conspiracy, but seeing the artifact theme in M15, and with Khans of Tarki on the horizon with another potential artifact emphasis, that section may get even bigger next time around.

I considered including this fella, but I decided requiring people to keep track of public information was a bit too far.


From here on out I’m going to go through the update color by color, starting with white.

Out In
Gods Willing Stave Off
Temporal Isolation Test of Faith
Executioner’s Swing (WB) Kor Chant
Leonin Skyhunter Caravan Escort
Aven Riftwatcher Custodi Squire
Celestial Flare Noble Templar

As you can see in white, I’m continuing to depower the removal in favor of combat tricks and other forms of interaction. If I ever fear removal has become too weak, several of these cards will probably come back in (I’m looking at you, Celestial Flare), but in the meantime I’m trying to give Voltron strategies a bit of breathing room.

But that wasn’t my only lodestone during this update. I decided that I wanted to make sure that each color had access to their full color pies. For a while I was letting them bleed into one another fairly drastically, and as a result some of the classic effects were getting pushed out. With this update, I tried to put those pieces back in.

So Temporal Isolation, which was the only card to say “shadow” in my cube, turns into the damage prevention trick/buff Test of Faith. Executioner’s Swing, an anti-regeneration spell, gets replaced with Kor Chant, representative of white’s damage redirection. Gods Willing comes out in favor of Stave Off, but I’m still keeping the protection effect in the cube; the ability to make an opponent’s Voltron fall apart seems stronger than scry 1.

The rest of it was just about rebalancing a bit. Caravan Escort is better in a Voltron format with weaker removal, especially when you see what I did to red. So he’s back in. And the landcycling cycle plays so well in Conspiracy that I added in the four that were previously absent (I was already running Twisted Abomination). For these cards I took out two of white’s cheap fliers, since I wanted to deemphasize evasion a tad.

Plus, it’s not exactly like this thing is a good fit for a Voltron format.

But it’s Custodi Squire that’s the real stand out. Not only is it one of white’s 3/3 fliers for five mana, continuing a proud pauper cube tradition for white, and on top of that it’s the best Gravedigger in the format.

I mean, look at how that thing plays in one on one! It’s practically Eternal Witness.

Out In
Spellstutter Sprite Augury Owl
Thornwind Faeries Enclave Elite
Faerie Invaders Chasm Drake
Fencer Clique Shoreline Ranger
Goblin Electromancer (UR) Traveler’s Cloak
Sentinels of Glen Elendra Dream Fracture


Here you see the last dregs of the faeries deck from Modern Masters last year coming out. If I ever bring a strong tribal element to the cube (i.e., the better changelings), then the faeries will return. Many of the cards are individually strong, and I even contemplated keeping Spellstutter Sprite in as a bit of a Mental Misstep on a stick. But it was time for a change. And this was a good opportunity to get blue back to where it belongs.

That’s why Augury Owl is in for Spellstutter Sprite; I didn’t dislike having a 1/1 flier for two in the cube, but I wanted to cleanse the tribal cues for unfamiliar players. Faerie Invaders gets swapped back out for Chasm Drake, which may even be a direct reversal of a previous decision. I don’t remember. Fencer Clique comes out because it’s just not made for Voltron, and Shoreline Ranger replaces it because I’m adding in that cycle. Sentinels of Glen Elendra come out in favor of a counterspell new to common rarity, Dream Fracture.

It seems like a good tempo card, even if it is not strictly card advantage.

The final two cards, though, are an attempt to bring landwalk back to the cube. Traveler’s Cloak was a great reprint for this reason; I would have never thought to go back and dig it up, but between how well it works with heroic and the way the new foil brings out Rebecca Guay’s gorgeous art… it’s almost an auto-include.

Look at it! And, yes, I let aesthetic considerations guide me somewhat in my ALL-FOIL cube. Shocking! 

Goblin Electromancer provided a good opportunity to add that effect into blue’s wheelhouse. It’s not a bad card, but it was up against stiff competition in the UR gold slot. In the end, a mana reduction effect in those colors seemed less relevant to their identity than Izzet Chronarch or the pure card advantage/heroic enabler provided by Quicksilver Dagger.

Can you believe this thing even exists? I should get an untapper up in here. 

Finally, I took out Thornwind Faeries, cutting blue off from the pingers again. When I realized I wasn’t even running Razorfin Hunter, its inclusion, while a nice nod back to Prodigal Sorcerer, seemed like color bleed. In its place I put in Enclave Elite. I brought that entire cycle back in, since they seemed universally strong in Conspiracy draft, and the Enclave Elite were a definite standout.

These ladies were already in there, if you were wondering why you’re first hearing of this in the blue section. 

Out In
Disfigure Quag Vampires
Victim of Night Undertaker
Thieving Sprite Disciple of Phenax
Murder Executioner’s Capsule
Shambling Shell (BG) Wakedancer


Well, I said I wanted to depower removal, and that meant taking a big swing at black. I actually ended up with more cuts than I initially knew what to do with, leading to the inclusion of previously dismissed cards like Disciple of Phenax and Undertaker. Black’s been having that problem lately for pauper cube it seems; there are usually one or two amazing cards per set, but without the depth you see in white, blue, and green. That’s why Disfigure, Victim of Night, and Murder are all out of the cube: they’re just too good.

This one was particularly deadly, since it could kill a disturbing number of the heroic creatures out from under a trigger. 

That gave me room to bring back Executioner’s Capsule, originally cut for some inexplicable reason, while still lowering the overall removal power. This, again, turned out to be prescient, giving the upcoming artifact theme. Quag Vampires came in to complete that cycle, while giving black decks a tough-to-handle threat for the mirror. Undertaker is an experiment; I don’t really run a bunch of spellshapers, but it’s worth trying, and I had to remove Tortured Existence when I went all foils.

For the last two, Wakedancer seemed a strong inclusion once it got downshifted in rarity, and Disciple of Phenax seems like a better version of Thieving Sprite in a non-tribal cube (plus the Sprite’s inclusion signals the tribal theme, and that’s a no go). Shambling Shell was a tough cut, though; it was between that, Grisly Salvage, and Sluiceway Scorpion, and I think Shambling Shell got a lot worse once damage stopped using the stack. Grisly Salvage enables land drops and creatures, plus it’s a card in the minor reanimator strategy, while Sluiceway Scorpion works well in that deck and is generally a friend to Voltron. In the end, the Shell had to go.

One day the cube will be tribal, and then this card is going to be even better! 

Out In
Firebolt Skitter of Lizards
Pillar of Flame Akroan Crusader
Searing Spear Brute Force
Lightning Strike Titan’s Strength
Kragma Butcher Goblin Battle Jester
Warmind Infantry Chartooth Cougar
Augur Spree (RB) Fling


So, I’m making some changes to red. I realized, a while back, that red managed to have the most removal and the most x-for-one spells because I was trying to support mono-red burn. It’s a popular archetype, and one that generally is more relevant in more powered cubes. In less powerful ones, it’s just picked off by other archetypes for removal, and that’s particularly true when there are about five different versions of each spell. Hopefully, the changes I’ve made will cut down on the frequency of mono red burn getting drafted, but when someone does draft it there should be a better chance to send the signal that it’s being cut.

Because it’s not like this card is going anywhere!

That’s why Firebolt, Pillar of Flame, Searing Spear, and Lightning Strike needed to go. Kragma Butcher and Warmind Infantry needed to go as well, because red’s curve was almost as overloaded with three-drops as blue. There was a lot there to potentially cut, but I decided the 4/3s for three mana were less interesting than the hasty cards or the 3/3s with first strike.

Let alone this lizard, which is a key card for the RW tokens strategy. 

Skitter of Lizards came in for the cycle reasons, although I think it might be the weakest of the lot. It’s not that a 3/3 haste for five is particularly bad, the others in the cycle just have more relevant abilities than haste.

I wonder how good it would be if it just kicked for a single red mana.

Akroan Crusader seems like it might be worth giving a shot now that the deck is in peak heroic and there are a bunch of good cards to trigger it, but I don’t have much hope for its longevity. Chartooth Cougar is being added in for cycle reasons, but it actually fills two needed holes in red: a solid six-drop, and firebreathing. Brute Force and Titan’s Strength are there so that the reduction on burn doesn’t leave red completely without ways to end the game, and frankly they’re both better rates than Searing Strike and Lightning Spear (joke, not mistake). Oh, and Fling is in, both because I feel like red should definitely have fling, and also because it’s a non-heroic card that works well with many of the heroic enablers (specifically the power-boosting ones).

“So I have a new strategy, and you’re just gonna have to trust me on this. Die for me. Die. For. Me.” 

Goblin Battle Jester is an odd duck. I wanted a falter effect in the cube, particularly a targeted one, and then I remembered this card from a while back. It never really seemed amazing, but I don’t need amazing. I need things that highlight creature interaction, and things that provide repeatable advantage, and this one does both. It might not stay forever, but I’m excited to try it out in my particular draft environment.

This was a hard cut, but I decided to go down to one removal spell in each gold color, and Terminate is just… Terminate! 

Out In
Abundant Growth Might of Alara
Ambush Viper Giant Growth
Thrashing Mossdog Fog
Pheres-Band Tromper Gnarlid Pack
Garruk’s Companion Wandering Wolf
Beetleform Mage (GU) Elvish Aberration


Cutting down on green’s removal basically meant cutting Ambush Viper. Green was already doing creature removal right. The real problem Green had was in not running the classics. I had no Fog effects, no one-mana pump spells, and no power-based evasion (which seems strong in a heroic-themed environment). So, when in doubt, start with the classics. Mono green now has access to five instant-speed pump spells, including the classic Giant Growth and the domain-friendly Might of Alara. And I replaced Thrashing Mossdog, a very powerful anti-flier card, with a more general anti-alpha card. I actually think this will be a better effect for green in the long run. Green usually has the type of fatties that can just ruin a player if they get too enthusiastic and swing all in; Fog does that, without providing the same unpleasant crippling effect you see in cards like Tangle. And it’s a classic. I remember playing with Fog when I was a kid, so nostalgia plays a part.

Considering the format was casual constructed, and I had never even heard of drafting, it wasn’t exactly good for me back then. 

Gnarlid Pack and Elvish Aberration both finish out their respective cycles, and Wandering Wolf’s appeal should be obvious… plus, it gives a reason to cast some of these instant speed pump spells before combat, and I like that type of interaction. The exclusions are a little more random. Garruk’s Companion was strong, but I would rather try the evasion over the trample at the moment. It’ll likely be back though. Pheres-Band Tromper takes too much to get online, and Gnarlid Pack offers similar stats while being a more relevant top deck in the late game. Beetleform Mage just seemed odd, considering I don’t play any of the other Rootwalla cards, and it was up against some stiff competition. And, finally, Abundant Growth is just a weak card; with there being less gold action I don’t really need that level of fixing anymore.

Although I could see bringing this in some day, if I go any deeper into domain.

Out In
Karametra’s Favor (G) Quicksand
Goblin Legionnaire (RW) Martial Glory (RW)
Woject Halberdiers (RW) Explorer’s Scope
Recoil (UB) Traveler’s Amulet
Ethercaste Knight (WU) Whispergear Sneak
Branching Bolt (GR) Cogwork Spy
Centaur Healer (WG) Cogwork Librarian


Since this is the last section, I’m throwing two curveballs into the mix. One is the previously mentioned realization that green had ended up with an extra card. I realized this when I saw the cube was only running 29 lands. I think that may have occurred when I was taking out Transguild Promenade and its functional twin, but I do a lot of work on the same spreadsheet and over the last two years I’ve been maintaining this beast the changelog has gotten a bit difficult to read. Actually, I thought I was two cards over in the green section, before realizing that one card (Aerie Ouphes) got cut without being recorded, and I have no idea when, where, or how that happened.

My guess is sometime during Theros, since it’s not a great card with auras.

So Quicksand came back in, for a green card that had been underperforming. In addition, I also cut another card from the Boros section in favor of adding in Martial Glory. Given the focus on heroic in RW, and specifically the addition of odd little cards like Akroan Crusader, I thought it was time this found its way back into the cube. I cut Goblin Legionnaire and Woject Halberdiers for it, the latter just because I decided to double down on the haste theme, while the former just doesn’t play all that well with heroic.

I mean, why would you ever want to put pants on this thing? A shame, though, it’s a nice foil.

The decision to remove Recoil or Agony Warp came down to the wire. They’re both removal, but Agony Warp can be used as a heroic enabler, and it’s capable of killing the cycle of Phantom Flock and friends, who are otherwise quite annoying to remove. Meanwhile, Recoil is very mean to people putting pants on their dudes, and I think I’d rather have fewer bounce spells as a whole right now. Plus, Agony Warp’s at its best in creature combat, and I want more of that in the cube, not less.

If Auger Spree is out, Recoil's out too.

I think Recoil is better than this card, which stayed in, but I didn’t want to go over one removal spell per combination.

The elimination of Branching Bolt actually brought Gruul down to zero gold removal spells, but I think that’s okay. Gruul’s domain in this cube is supposed to be beef, so Zhur-Taa Swine seemed to be all the removal/beef that the color needs. I cut Ethercaste Knight from Azorius for curve reasons, since before the cut I had three two-drops, a three-drop, and a four-drop; it seemed clear a two-drop needed to go, and Ethercaste Knight was the weakest. Finally, Selesnya lost access to Centaur Healer, again for curve considerations. Frankly, it was kinda for power considerations too. Centaur Healer was up against Qasali Pridemage (more important now due to the enchantment subtheme), Selesnya Evangel (première token maker), Common Bond (brutal combat trick), and Armadillo Cloak (the bombiest bomb in the cube). Centaur Healer is good, but it’s not that good.

Seriously, what else is that good? I can’t believe this was drafted as a common!

The five artifacts I added in are all pretty straightforward. Explorer’s Scope and Traveler’s Amulet are both in there to give RW landfall decks some reliability, while providing other colors with some fixing or minor card advantage. Come Khans of Tarkir or even M15, though, and I think we’ll start to see these cards shine. The last three were the cogs. Whispergear Sneak is mostly included just for the way it makes drafting a little more fun. It’s not like cube packs are sealed, and strategically it’s nice to be able to use it on one of your later packs to see where your deck might go. Plus, in rare occasions it’s a body you’re going to be able to play on turn one a huge percentage of the time, and I can see that being useful. Cogwork Spy, on the other hand, is almost the inverse of Whispergear Sneak. It’s included mostly for the body, since a 2/1 flier for three colorless is going to make a lot of decks. The draft ability is secondary, although it might be very useful to know at least one of your neighbor’s colors. And finally, Cogwork Librarian is just awesome. The ability to bank an extra pick is just amazing, and the way it gets passed through the draft if it shows up in pack one… I love it! That it’s a 3/3 for four mana make it even better, since at the end of the draft someone’s left with a playable card.

It trades with Juggernaut! What’s not to love? Other than the fact Juggernaut’s an uncommon, and thus not in the cube.

So that’s it for this update, a major change to my pauper cube. I like it, though. I think these changes will make it a more fun experience to draft, and for the longest time I was just trying to put the most powerful cards in I could find. But this isn’t a powered cube! It’s a pauper cube, and it’s pretty, and it’s mine. And that means that if I want a Fog, I just put in a Fog. It’s a good feeling.

In case anyone is interested, here’s a link to the document I use to keep track of the thing. You won’t be able to edit it, but it’s a listing of the cube in a format that I think works well. If you’re the type of person who likes casual drafting and designing interactions, I can’t speak highly enough about making a cube. It doesn’t need to be powered, or even particularly expensive, to be fun to play with, and it really helps your card evaluation skills. The only real cost involved are the 600ish sleeves you’ll need for the cube and its lands; the rest of it you can build out of your collection, and make it into an environment where your type of Magic can blossom.


Jess Stirba believes in the power of cubes!

Don't Miss Out!

Sign up for the Hipsters Newsletter for weekly updates.