Aether Revolt Pauper Cube Update

Feature Article from Adam Styborski
Adam Styborski
2/21/2017 11:01:00 AM
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Aether Revolt is another turning point for the Pauper Cube.

Typically, I use a boilerplate into to cover bases. Here I'll just bullet them out:

- The Shadows over Innistrad update covered archetypes and philosophy.

- Archetypes are important, and I refine them often.

- I use a Google Sheet to keep my cube organized. (Yes, I’m aware of alternatives.)

The Pauper Cube is bigger than what I do with it. I get questions around cards that are common-by-rarity-sheet-it-was-printed-on (see Maze of Ith, et al.) or available only in limited release (anything Portal: Three Kingdoms can be challenging to find), the relative power of archetypes (such as why blue is/isn't the best color) and what uncommons might make good choices as Pauper Commander commanders in a pre-draft packet. While my cube is a good starting point, you should feel free to adapt and update to suit what you need – and Fire Ambush isn't going to be something every cube needs.

This update brings a nice change to the nonbasic lands in the cube, and nudges archetypes along thanks to strong commons in Aether Revolt.

Basically, Mana

The historical track of nonbasic lands and mana fixing for all-commons cubes has been interesting. Cards like Boros Garrison are dominant, and something many builders chose to cut years ago. Similarly, powerful mana rocks like Boros Signet negated the need for nonbasics – Signets are just more powerful – and made Rampant Growth obsolete. They, too, have been set aside from most commons cubes.

Then, the page turned. Boros Guildgate brought a cycle of commons across every color pair. Then, Wind-Scarred Crag brought another cycle. These 20 lands encouraged multicolor decks without creating an incentive to go multicolor; entering the battlefield tapped served a suitable drawback.

With Oath of the Gatewatch a generic cycle of “enters the battlefield tapped” lands arrived, but sat at uncommon. It made sense for Limited but kept them off my radar, until the Kaladesh and Aether Revolt Planeswalker decks were printed. Stone Quarry, Woodland Stream, Tranquil Expanse and Submerged Boneyard all were “printed” as commons.

So I asked a pretty obvious question:

The responses were overwhelmingly positive to make the change, so I'm doing it.

In: Meandering River, Submerged Boneyard, Cinder Barrens, Timber Gorge, Tranquil Expanse, Forsaken Sanctuary, Foul Orchard, Woodland Stream, Highland Lake, Stone Quarry

Out: Sejiri Steppe, Halimar Depths, Barren Moor, Looming Spires, Fertile Thicket

Cutting some of the spell lands was easy as they're generally underplayed:

- Sejiri Steppe wasn’t tricky or defensive

- Halimar Depths suffered without shuffle effects

- Barren Moor stood out as odd without the rest of the cycle from Onslaught

- Looming Spires didn’t threaten well with red’s creatures

- Fertile Thicket was a really bad mana fixer for a cube without landfall

This change adds a few cards to the cube – which is small anyway – and rounds out ways to splash without relying on green mana fixing. Rampant Growth effects will still ramp and be critical to the Green-Blue Ramp deck, but this should help ensure every deck can cast its cards even if the price is patience.

The Rest of the Revolt

The rest of the changes are cards actually from Aether Revolt, and like most small sets it's tiny changes in texture and support.

In: Countless Gears Renegade

Out: Stave Off

Mid
Low
 Countless Gears Renegade
$0.15
$0.01
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Thompson Productions 32 $0.01
Cool City Games 21 $0.01
ExcelsiorCards 394 $0.01
Pro-PlayGames 14 $0.01
Serenity Games 4 $0.01
Dark Depths Games 4 $0.01
Zia Comics 6 $0.01

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Countless Gears Renegade curves out as a 2/2 – totally fair – or adds three power and two bodies to the battlefield if an opponent blocked/traded for one of your creatures in combat. It's a nice way to take advantage of revolt and punish opponents for blocking in a draft environment without a bunch of revolt to remind them.

In: Leave in the Dust

Out: Essence Scatter

Mid
Low
 Leave in the Dust
$0.15
$0.01
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Thompson Productions 26 $0.01
ExcelsiorCards 585 $0.01
Kid At Heart 2 68 $0.01
The Final Dungeon 55 $0.01
Serenity Games 4 $0.01
Team Blue Dot 4 $0.01
Miniature Exchange 24 $0.01

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Blue gets a ton of bounce, but I like it having drawbacks, too. Countering a creature is the same as killing it, as Essence Scatter is efficient for that. Bouncing is a delay, even if it's a good delay. Leave in the Dust is a solid value card, but committing four mana is asking a lot. Balancing the tempo potential of blue against the few hard counters it has it important.

In: Aether Poisoner

Out: Lawless Broker

Mid
Low
 Aether Poisoner
$0.14
$0.01
Store QTY Price  
Team Blue Dot 4 $0.01
Collectible Corner 29 $0.01
Geeks and Games 5 $0.01
OCM Mtg 12 $0.01
Galactic CG 3 $0.01
SubedHuman 4 $0.01
Mana Haven Games 1 $0.01

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I like Lawless Broker, but Aether Poisoner is a great little card too. Unlike Typhoid Rats that encourage you to just sit back, Aether Poisoner asks you to attack. If you're worried about losing a blocker for a turn – something red decks prey on – this solves that by giving you a free Servo token. It's a neat trick even if there aren't many other sources of energy in the cube.

In: Aether Chaser

Out: Orcish Oriflamme

Mid
Low
 Aether Chaser
$0.17
$0.01
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Geeks and Games 5 $0.01
OCM Mtg 7 $0.01
Team Blue Dot 4 $0.01
Galactic CG 19 $0.01
Glaive Cards 3 $0.01
PutirasWorkshop 25 $0.01
Mana Haven Games 2 $0.01

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Orcish Oriflamme was a nice nod to the token decks of 20 years ago, but it turns out +1/+0 wasn't strong enough. The ability to surprise opponents, and force them to decide whether you're packing Trumpet Blast or not, matters more for token decks. Aether Chaser is as efficient as Zada's Commando but now gives you another token creature. It's perfect for red-white and red-green token decks.

In: Lifecraft Cavalry

Out: Tajuru Pathwarden

Mid
Low
 Lifecraft Cavalry
$0.14
$0.01
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Thompson Productions 24 $0.01
ExcelsiorCards 551 $0.01
Kid At Heart 2 77 $0.01
The Final Dungeon 102 $0.01
The Game Haven 27 $0.01
GameTableAdventures 22 $0.01
Zia Comics 5 $0.01

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Green fatty flavor choice of the quarter here, but revolt is something I think works for green. It's attacking with bigger creatures and forcing opponents to using removal then, before taking damage. A 6/6 with trample for just five mana makes Lifecraft Cavalry a bigger payoff, though Tajuru Pathwarder is almost as beefy with vigilance to boot. Pick your flavor of choice here as both either stomp over for the win or eat a big removal spell – there will be little in between.

In: Mobile Garrison

Out: Cultist's Staff

Mid
Low
 Mobile Garrison
$0.15
$0.01
Store QTY Price  
ExcelsiorCards 498 $0.01
Kid At Heart 2 60 $0.01
The Heros Edge 44 $0.01
Team Blue Dot 4 $0.01
Planet Comics 8 $0.01
+EV Games 16 $0.01
Geeks and Games 1 $0.01

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Mobile Garrison untaps the creature you crewed with. It's pseudo-vigilance for another attacking creature. It's a solid 3/4 that should trade well, if at all. Best of all, it's more interesting than Cultist's Staff.

In: Filigree Crawler

Out: Tumble Magnet

Mid
Low
 Filigree Crawler
$0.13
$0.01
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Thompson Productions 18 $0.01
ExcelsiorCards 567 $0.01
Kid At Heart 2 73 $0.01
Pro-PlayGames 5 $0.01
Miniature Exchange 23 $0.01
Serenity Games 4 $0.01
GameTableAdventures 35 $0.01

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Tumble Magnet has been a venerable member of the colorless removal suite since the cube's earliest days. It's a fine card, but I'd like to encourage more colorful answers while suggesting that artifact creatures can make the cut. Filigree Crawler probably trades with something and it leaves behind a handy flying Thopter Token. Red-Green Tokens will appreciate a way to make something evasive, but ultimately it's a solid card for slower decks to gets two blocks in. Being just a 2/2 isn't entirely a liability in my cube.

The Watch List

Some Aether Revolt cards didn't make the cut here that might be a better fit for your take on the cube. If you want to go bigger or wider, here's are a few to keep on your radar.

Alley Evasion is a fine trick, but it's the flexibility that I appreciate. “Countering” a removal spell by saving your own creature or nudging the numbers tight combat is a great choice for one mana. It's not a pure protection spell, but it's a nice alternative that fits more than one deck.

Caught in the Brights it a fun Pacifism variant, particularly if you want Vehicles to matter in your cube. Combines with an “auras matter” theme it's not hard to see this working as a way to revisit Green-White Auras in a fair way. It's a little out there, but exiling something and getting back Caught in the Brights just once is huge value at common.

Dawnfeather Eagle feels like an Overrun on a body. While the +1/+1 doesn't quite make an army unstoppable – or surprising, unlike the instant-speed of Fortify – the 3/3 flying body attached is fair rate for commons. Five mana and a small bump with vigilance is worth a closer look.

Mid
Low
 Dawnfeather Eagle
$0.15
$0.01
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Cool City Games 3 $0.01
Thompson Productions 8 $0.01
ExcelsiorCards 587 $0.01
The Final Dungeon 18 $0.01
Team Blue Dot 4 $0.01
The Game Haven 19 $0.01
GameTableAdventures 13 $0.01

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Bastion Inventor is interesting. With enough artifacts in a cube, turning blue-red into “colorless matters” and relying on artifacts isn't a huge leap. In that world, playing a 4/4 hexproof early seems amazing. I like cards that push on the idea of what's possible for a cube, and Bastion Inventor makes me want to go deeper.

Ice Over is a solid blue Pacifism, getting to crunch down on either a creature or an artifact. It's a solid role-filler for cubes that need one.

Renegade's Getaway is part of the removal of Regeneration from new Magic cards. A combat trick that also makes a token feels odd in black, and that's a good thing. Indestructible counters all sorts of old removal spells, and it's actually reads “target permanent,” meaning it can save Auras, Equipment or even a land. Renegade's Getaway is more flexible than it looks.

Destructive Tampering hits a sweet spot. It's artifact removal – something my cube sorely lacks – or a Falter effect. It's a great way to have a card that can push through damage for a red deck while keeping an artifact removal spell around. I narrowly kept it out of this update.

Wrangle won't clear any fatty or suddenly steal the win from a ramp deck (See Ulamog's Crusher and friends), but it does hit most of the creatures in the cube. It's a clever way to put another Threaten in, or replace the three-mana version with a serviceable two-mana take.

Mid
Low
 Wrangle
$0.14
$0.01
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ExcelsiorCards 534 $0.01
Kid At Heart 2 52 $0.01
Serenity Games 4 $0.01
Team Blue Dot 4 $0.01
Geeks and Games 1 $0.01
Galactic CG 15 $0.01
Shake Battle Roll 31 $0.01

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Druid of the Cowl feels similar to both Ulvenwald Captive and Werebear as an early ramp creatures, though the Druid of the Cowl is clearly the best blocker out of the starting gate. The problem is payoff: in the late game, both Captive and Werebear can be much larger, and that matters.

Highspire Infusion is practically a must for any cube that wants energy to work. The combat trick-meets-archetype enabler can play nice with Attune with Aether and empower green to be one of the pivot colors for energy. It's a nice thought that would give identity to a color starved for non-ramp, non-creature things to be good at.

Scrounging Bandar is way better than I gave it credit for, and I suspect it may be a mistake to have not included the Cat Monkey in this update. A Grizzly Bear that can randomly upgrade something is excellent. I'll be looking at this again soon.

Night Market Guard can block two things. Given its toughness it likely dies when it blocks no matter what, but its power is enough to potentially make it a two-for-one. I like deceptive creatures that make players Rethink how they should approach a situation, and Night Market Guard is definitely unexpected.

Renegade Map is great mana fixing. I think I have enough in my cube, but with a mana cost of just one to go find a land, it's totally acceptable. If you want to encourage more multicolor decks or cards, more fixing will help.

Verdant Automaton can get carried away. I thought about this as a payoff for green-based ramp decks, but decided it was too narrow to really shine. I still like it.

Summary

 
Color In Out
Countless Gears Renegade Stave Off
Leave in the Dust Essence Scatter
Aether Poisoner Lawless Broker
Aether Chaser Orcish Oriflamme
Lifecraft Cavalry Tajuru Pathwarden
Mobile Garrison Cultist's Staff
Filigree Crawler Tumble Magnet
Sejiri Steppe
Halimar Depths
Barren Moor
Looming Spires
Fertile Thicket
Meandering River
Submerged Boneyard
Cinder Barrens
Timber Gorge
Tranquil Expanse
Forsaken Sanctuary
Foul Orchard
Woodland Stream
Highland Lake
Stone Quarry

Overall the cube is in a healthy spot and enjoys a lot of positive feedback. What I'm interested in now is where the cube feels lacking – what's wrong, feels awkward, or just doesn't make sense? If you play the cube, and I ask you to get detailed with feedback if you do, then tell me what's not working.

Without your insight, I can't continue to push the issues and make things better. I look forward to seeing what comes from Modern Masters 2017 – there's got to be some great downshifts coming, right?




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