Over the last year my main gaming project was putting together a pauper cube. This is a huge pile of Magic: the Gathering cards put together to create a draft set using only cards at the common rarity. I decided to undertake this task after having a great experience drafting a pauper cube and realising that I really enjoyed limited formats. I wanted to have way of getting that draft fix without needing to buy booster packs and also having some more interesting and diverse interactions that could be found by going beyond the normal formats.
I set about going through my collection, reading things online, trading and doing occasional orders. Things moved slowly at first. One of the most helpful things I found was a series of articles by Alex Ullman which can be found here (seriously check them out if you’re interested in cube or game design). Alex Ullman’s list became the base of my own but a good deal of Lorwyn nostalgia made me include a tribal sub-theme that I will continue to work on.
Friday 15th August was the first time that I was able to have an eight player draft with the cube. There had been smaller tests ranging from two to four player but never had we reached the holy draft number of eight.
All of the drafters were friends of mine from the local area with a wide range of experience in magic. From regular drafters and brewmasters to pick-up casual players and those returning to the game. To try and even the playing field it was suggested that more experienced players had to play three colour decks and weren’t allowed to pick removal in the first two picks of each pack.
Here’s a breakdown of what was played:
- Andrew – Bant Auras
- Sam (me) – Bant “Skies”
- Jonathan – Jund
- Sam C – Jund stompy
- Max – Dimir Tempo
- Faye – Azorius
- Jake – Rakdos w/ Green splash
- Mike – Azorius
The draft portion, as always, was good fun and having stipulations in place led to some interesting picks. In the first pack I was forced to pass Repulse due to the no removal rule. I opted for Wild Mongrel instead hoping to end up in a deck that abused the discard ability for Basking Rootwalla and Werebear. When Werebear did finally show it’s face I passed up on the card and it’s amazing flavour text to branch out into blue for Ninja of the Deep Hours who more than pulled his weight in my deck. This also meant the end of man’s best discard-outlet-friend’s place in my deck. My positioning on the table and being set into my colours early on due to strongly cutting green and white early on I was passed some very powerful cards. My deck featured Seraph of Dawn, Guardian of the Guildpact, and Armadillo Cloak.
This was the list:
1x Mire Boa
1x Aura Gnarlid
1x Nyxborn Wolf
It had a reasonably effective curve and I found myself being able to go on the beatdown early and often. My creatures outclassed those of my opponents early on due to helping each other as either gifts bestowed by the gods or Trusted Forcemage lending her powers to the smaller members of my army.
This event also introduced me to an aspect of Cube that was new to me and that I’m excited to explore going forward. This was the first I started to discover synergies hidden deep in the history of Magic. The interaction that I stumbled upon this time was Ninja with Empyrial Armor. Ninja always restocks your hand meaning that you can continue to cast creatures and still get a great buff from the aura.
Playing three colours didn’t feel like much of a detriment but I sure felt the sting of no removal in any of the longer games that I played. This problem hurt me the most in the last game that I played.
In this game I played against Max who’d recently come back to Magic with Conspiracy, meaning that he was no stranger to drafting with powerful cards. Game 1 started off badly for me, my side of the battlefield was sparsely populated with a lone Elf being one of the few creatures to stay around for anytime. I saw my creatures bounced, killed and countered whilst an Errant Ephemeron started to materialise from it’s temporal suspense. Trusted Forcemage made her way on to the battlefield and her magic bond with the Llanowar Elves gave them both the power to finish the game with help of enchanting Empyrial Armor. This was a game of doing the maths and hoping on the last attack as Max had me super dead next turn.
The next game went my way and cemented my game plan for subsequent games with this deck. I loaded the battlefield with good blockers and soldier tokens whilst my Ninja and Mulldrifter kept me ahead in the card advantage game. Eventually my flying guys proved too much and I took down the round 2-0.
This round I was matched up against Sam. He’d drafted a Jund deck that excelled in the long game with powerful threats like Ulamog’s Crusher and Wildheart Invoker. Game one was a blowout for me but in the worst kind of way as Sam was colour screwed so this was essentially a non-game. It did involve a ten point swing with Ninja and Guardian though which I was quite proud of.
Game 2 was a very different affair. I’d started off explosively again but Sam’s draw had a whole lot more gas than last time having removal and blockers meaning that I was unable to close the door before I was facing down Zhur-taa Swine, Wildheart Invoker and worst of all Ulamog’s Crusher.I was locked out from fighting back and facing certain defeat leading to some terrible combat maths when assigning blockers; meaning that I was out of options on my last turn alive. I think I could have won this game if I’d taken the time to work out blocking properly.
In the third game of this match my fliers found the skies were clear and claimed a strong victory for me.
This was the last set of games of the day and saw me pitted against the only other undefeated player. Andrew was also playing a Bant deck. His deck was a lot more “go tall” than mine and since Andrew had sat to my left during the draft portion I suspected he might have benefitted from a lot of the removal I was forced to pass.
My suspicion was correct, I faced three Pacifism type effects and repulse in game one. The resolution of each of these spells was accompanied by a smirk that can only come from the smug feeling of knowing you’re beating your opponent the way they wanted to beat you. Despite having previously been able to overwhelm opponents, the removal suite Andrew played along with matching me creature-for-creature meant that my offense was brought to a halt before being able to close out the game.
Game two was a very different story. I resolved an early Guardian of the Guildpact and then suited it up an Armadillo Cloak. This was too much to deal with as it crashed in turn after turn.
As was poetic justice would have it I had something similar done right back to me in game 3 as a turn two Sage owl was blessed by the gods of Theros again and again with various bestow creatures.
I had a great time getting to do a full draft of my cube whilst playing a variety of opponents and a number of games with the deck I drafted. Everyone else appeared to enjoy themselves a lot and the draft didn’t seem to be too daunting to those unfamiliar with limited as I was afraid it might be. My only major concern was that in order to try and balance the field three of us were forced to play three colours but then the top four decks were three colour decks. Perhaps they were less inconsistent than we’d hoped. There was also a little less variety in colour combinations drafted than I expected but I’m certain this will change at different drafts. One drafter was worried that there was too much removal in the cube but I think this will become less of an issue as players adapt to the environment however, I will keep an eye on this in the future. Players also enjoyed the tribal sub-theme which I mentioned I plan to push more as the Cube continues to evolve.
I’d definitely advise limited junkies like myself to build a cube of some sort and I’m already looking out for the next opportunity to draft the cube. If you’re interested my own Cube can be found in this spreadsheet