Spotlight Cube Series – Pauper Cube

Posted in Magic Digital on March 10, 2020

By Adam Styborski

Stybs has played Magic the world over, writing and drafting as part of the event coverage team and slinging Commander everywhere his decks will fit.

Hey, everyone, and welcome back to the Spotlight Cube Series. This is a cube that I've been excited about for a long time. Before I was even working at Wizards, I was a Level 2 judge on the East Coast and even occasionally worked events at the same store where Adam talks about playing. While there, I heard whispers of a cube he'd made, but for one reason or another, I was never able to actually play it. Years went by, and I never got a chance. I was always running an event or exhausted from running an event. Never worked out. But now we've all got that chance.

That would be enough, but that's not the only reason. We've got the Professor from Tolarian Community College introducing the cube, because we all know how passionate he is about Pauper. (Turns out he enjoys Cube, too!) Take a look at his video here! After discussing with him, we're adding one of his favorite cards to the prize pool for the Cube Draft League: all undefeated players are not only going to get their trophy but also a copy of Pauper staple Thorn of the Black Rose!

And because this is a bit of a special occasion, while Pauper Cube is live, we've also got a promo code for everyone: just enter "PauperCube2020" into the MTGO Store's code redemption field to add a Standard Bearer to your account. Even free accounts can get in on this promotion!

So, there's a bonus card in the prize pool, a promo for everyone, and a sweet new cube from Adam Styborski. This is the best kind of week. See you all in the queue!

Allison Steele
Digital Product Manager, Magic Online

Pauper Cube

Hello, I'm Adam "Stybs" Styborski (@the_stybs). You might remember me from such articles as "a few years of the Serious Fun" column or "the entire run of Command Tower" or, more recently, "articles about Magic esports over on" since I've joined the #WOTCStaff team. As a member of the Commander Advisory Group (CAG) and Magic esports content and coverage teams, I spend a lot of time watching and playing amazing games of Magic.

But one Magic passion I also enjoyed over the past 10 years was maintaining a "Pauper" cube. While I handed the reins off to a great team and 1,000-plus member community Discord, my excitement for new commons hasn't diminished in the least. When friend and all-around awesome person Alli Steele on the Magic Online team approached me with the idea of bringing Pauper Cube online as part of the Spotlight Cube Series, it was an emphatic "Yes!" from me.

Pauper Cube: A History

The history of the Pauper Cube starts over 10 years ago. At the time my local game store—Dream Wizards in Rockville, MD—was host to two other outstanding cubes: a powered (or unpowered—history is vague here) cube packed with rares, and a common and uncommon "C/Ube" maintained by Eric Klug. As a fan of multicolor and looking to build something unique from the other cubes on hand, I tried to build a "Pauper multicolor" cube.

Since this was around the time of Shards of Alara block in 2008–2009 before we went back to Ravnica—twice—it wasn't a successful enterprise. However, Eric kindly took me under his wing and walked through rebuilding the cube—cutting multicolor, focusing on curves by color, identifying archetypes—from the ground up with the piles of commons I had. The result was a smaller, more streamlined cube that was easy to understand for new Magic players but packed surprising depth and play sequences that delighted experienced drafters.

Over the years, many cards joined and left the cube, the history of which goes all the way back through Mirrodin Besieged in the change log maintained online. But two truths were always held:

  • Keep the cube small, around 400 or so cards. (409 was the number for a long time.)
  • Stay laser-focused on two-color archetypes. (Every pair has something it does.)

Bringing the cube to Magic Online meant that one of these would be broken, and what you'll experience once you can begin drafting it isn't going to be the same as if you built it in person. It's closer to a 540-card list of the "greatest hits" of the cube from over the years.

Plus, I needed to provide a list for the cube before the Theros Beyond Death update was provided, so it's definitely a little different if you've been keeping up to date already.

The Archetypes

Every archetype should feel familiar if you've played Magic long enough—after all, a cube built from commons is built using those bread-and-butter Limited staples you've used dozens of times drafting each set! But taking an eye to ensure there's synergy between their chosen colors and strategies is something any cube designer should do.

White-Blue Tempo

White-Blue decks can play out in a number of ways but will always be best focused on enters-the-battlefield creatures providing value, then backing them up with bounce spells, protection tricks, and counterspells. Kor Skyfisher is a meme within the community and led to "flicker" effects like Ghostly Flicker being added, so have fun drawing cards as many times as possible off Mulldrifter!

Blue-Black Control

No format would be complete without a control archetype, and blue-black is the classic combination. Pestilence and Evincar's Justice are two of the few sweeper effects that can wipe out small creatures, but chaining removal spells and card draw effects also gets the job done. Naiad of Hidden Coves is a nice touch from Theros Beyond Death to make it easier to play all those spells on your opponent's turns and provides a sturdy 3 toughness against tokens.

Black-Red Sacrifice

Token-making effects are plentiful in every color except blue, but black-red makes the most of it. Aggressive removal and burn spells (Lightning Bolt and Doom Blade are commons) may be iconic, but pushing damage through with Hissing Iguanar or Raid Bombardment and a pile of Goblin and Zombie tokens is great too.

Red-Green Tokens

If going wide with tokens and having the option to go tall with larger creatures suits your style, red-green has plenty to work with. Saprolings and Goblins are plentiful and can accelerate out faster than any other colors with Burning-Tree Emissary leading the way. With Wildfire Elemental or Trumpet Blast to work with, you can set up truly monstrous combat steps.

Green-White Tokens

Green-white is Selesnya territory, and tokens abound here too. Building up a wide army that makes Scion of the Wild proud then pushing in attacks with tricks like Sigil Blessing is a one-two punch any Selesnya fan can appreciate. Overrun isn't a common, but Battle Screech certainly is.

White-Black Control

While "enchantment control" isn't quite fair because there aren't many ways to search up or recover Auras, the density of Pacifism effects and other hard removal spells in white-black is quite high. Pestilence will still be an all-star for you, but Pillory of the Sleepless and Kingpin's Pet will let you pinprick opponents to death while you deal with their threats.

Black-Green Sacrifice

While black matched with any of the non-blue colors allows sacrifice effects to succeed, black-green perhaps does it in the most iconic of ways. Bigger creatures, recursion like Morgue Theft and Disturbed Burial, and plenty of grindy value mean you can run the midrange deck of your (all-common) dreams.

Green-Blue Ramp

Green gets most ramp effects for itself—and is why things like Boros Signet and Dimir Aqueduct aren't in the cube—but green-blue gets the best of both colors' worlds. Big flying creatures like Wretched Gryff or the monstrous Ulamog's Crusher are the top-end of win conditions around, but flexible spells like Æthersnipe can give you time to get there and help you win. (Also, it's obviously the best Capsize deck.)

Blue-Red Tempo

If Goblin Electromancer is part of your Storm decks, you'll understand the power of spell-casting value. While the blue package of fliers and red package of burn spells will help get the job done, rebuying the best with Mnemonic Wall and ensuring you maximize two-for-ones like Jilt will keep you ahead of opponents each step of the way.

Red-White Aggro

While tokens are certainly part of red-white decks—Borrowed Grace and Trumpet Blast make 15–16-land token aggro decks more than just viable—it's the combination of haste and the most efficient one- and two-drops in the cube that gives you the edge. Doomed Traveler, Faerie Guidemother, and Jackal Pup punch far above their one-drop class in the right spots.

The Next Level

Don't let a clear focus on two-color decks deter you from exploring what's possible. Over the years, there's been just about every kind of deck you can imagine.

Three-color decks will typically lean into the green ramp spells that can get lands other than Forests (see Harrow and Farseek) or build control together from stronger two-for-one spells in Esper, Grixis, or Sultai colors. The clever ways Cavern Harpy and Nightscape Familiar can take over a game from a three-color deck shouldn't be ignored, but drafting too many lands that enter the battlefield tapped (see Rakdos Guildgate, Foul Orchard, and friends) will leave you vulnerable to aggressive decks.

Of course, monocolor decks can shine too. Guardian of the Guildpact may as well read "protection from most of the cube," making it one of the best "pack one, pick one" choices you can make. Lightning Bolt and its milieu of variants are here, ready to make a burn deck come to life. Ghostly Flicker can combine with Mnemonic Wall to create value loops with things like Mulldrifter or Man-'o-War—assuming you get the time to set one up.

And for drafters hungry to tread new ground, some cleverly powerful commons are also included, which should give players plenty of ways to stretch and flex with unbelievable decks just like with cubes that use higher-rarity cards.

What Isn't Here

If you're a fan of the Pauper cube already, you'll notice there's a few friendly faces missing from the complete list.

Un- cards of all stripes aren't on Magic Online, so that flavor of fun isn't here. Particularly, the silver-bordered cards in the cube all support archetypes well and were not all equally replaceable. When you're down to just commons, you grab every ounce of power you can get, and only a monster would tell you that they don't like Squirrels!

Similarly, some of the multiplayer Draft sets—Conspiracy, Battlebond, and others—aren't totally available on Magic Online either. Cogwork Librarian is my favorite of the "draft matters" effects and is a great reason to draft Conspiracy if you get the chance to, but that will be a physical Draft experience with friends.

Likewise, cards banned in the Pauper Constructed format—namely Treasure Cruise—aren't here either. While Treasure Cruise is just moderately strong in a typical draft, reducing confusion between Pauper Constructed fans and fans of Pauper Cube was something Alli and I worked to reduce. It also means a few Pauper all-stars like Delver of Secrets, Stonehorn Dignitary, Stormbound Geist, and Lone Missionary were added as a nod to the Constructed format.

Replicating what Tron, Affinity, or Elves do wasn't possible, but some of your favorite interactions and staples will be ready for you to use in new ways.

One of the decisions that went into the cube years ago was a move away from "best in your sideboard" cards. While having a Disenchant effect for when your opponent gets Pestilence going, or a Shatter option to side in against a Bonesplitter, seems great because the power level across commons is somewhat flat, the choice was made to focus on every card in the cube being a card that can reasonably be put into your main deck. You'll find you draft a "playable" deck easier and earlier than other Draft formats, letting you instead focus on choosing cards that best synergize or improve what you want to do with your deck already.

As VP of R&D Aaron Forsythe once said, "This is just all the cards we shouldn't have printed at common." You'll find powerful choices deep into every pack, and it's really up to reading the table to see how you want to handle things.

Get Ready to Play

There is plenty to explore and try with the cube, and I'm excited to see how far it will be pushed by the biggest audience it has ever had. I look forward to seeing the ups and downs of your all-common experience, and I'll be sure to take trips through the queues and try a hand at playing my cube in a way I had never dreamed possible!

Click for searchable cube list

Card Name Color
Kathari Bomber BR
Spike Jester BR
Auger Spree BR
Blightning BR
Terminate BR
Wrecking Ball BR
Call of the Conclave GW
Centaur Healer GW
Qasali Pridemage GW
Rosemane Centaur GW
Safehold Elite GW
Sigil Blessing GW
Burning-Tree Emissary RG
Frenzied Arynx RG
Scuzzback Marauders RG
Branching Bolt RG
Colossal Might RG
Savage Smash RG
Cavern Harpy UB
Dimir Guildmage UB
Dinrova Horror UB
Whisper Agent UB
Agony Warp UB
Soul Manipulation UB
Court Hussar WU
Deputy of Acquittals WU
Curse of Chains WU
Feeling of Dread WU
Lawmage's Binding WU
Momentary Blink WU
Blade Juggler B
Bloodflow Connoisseur B
Bloodthrone Vampire B
Boneclad Necromancer B
Butcher Ghoul B
Cadaver Imp B
Carrion Feeder B
Crypt Rats B
Deathbloom Thallid B
Disowned Ancestor B
Doomed Dissenter B
Driver of the Dead B
Dusk Legion Zealot B
Faceless Butcher B
Falkenrath Noble B
First-Sphere Gargantua B
Fungal Infection B
Gluttonous Slug B
Gravedigger B
Gray Merchant of Asphodel B
Gurmag Angler B
Herald of the Dreadhorde B
Hired Blade B
Lazotep Reaver B
Liliana's Specter B
Midnight Scavengers B
Moan of the Unhallowed B
Okiba-Gang Shinobi B
Phyrexian Ghoul B
Phyrexian Rager B
Pit Keeper B
Plagued Rusalka B
Predatory Nightstalker B
Putrid Goblin B
Ruthless Ripper B
Silumgar Scavenger B
Sinuous Vermin B
Skinthinner B
Sultai Emissary B
Thorn of the Black Rose B
Thrill-Kill Assassin B
Tithebearer Giant B
Toll of the Invasion B
Typhoid Rats B
Violet Pall B
Viscera Seer B
Vulturous Aven B
Wakedancer B
Warren Pilferers B
Wicked Guardian B
Barren Moor B
Chainer's Edict B
Crippling Fatigue B
Dead Weight B
Death Denied B
Defile B
Diabolic Edict B
Disfigure B
Disturbed Burial B
Doom Blade B
Evincar's Justice B
Eyeblight's Ending B
Grim Harvest B
Last Gasp B
Mire's Grasp B
Morgue Theft B
Nameless Inversion B
Night's Whisper B
Ob Nixilis's Cruelty B
Pestilence B
Read the Bones B
Rend Flesh B
Sign in Blood B
Snuff Out B
Terror B
Tortured Existence B
Tragic Slip B
Undying Evil B
Unearth B
Vendetta B
Vicious Offering B
Æther Adept U
Æthersnipe U
Archaeomancer U
Aven Eternal U
Aven Surveyor U
Calcite Snapper U
Callous Dismissal U
Cloaked Siren U
Cloudkin Seer U
Clutch of Currents U
Delver of Secrets U
Dimir Informant U
Eldrazi Skyspawner U
Elite Instructor U
Errant Ephemeron U
Erratic Visionary U
Eyekite U
Faerie Duelist U
Faerie Seer U
Gryff Vanguard U
Halimar Wavewatch U
Kitesail Corsair U
Makeshift Mauler U
Man-o'-War U
Mist Raven U
Mnemonic Wall U
Mulldrifter U
Naiad of Hidden Coves U
Ninja of the Deep Hours U
Omenspeaker U
Pestermite U
Phantom Monster U
Pondering Mage U
Shaper Parasite U
Shimmering Glasskite U
Skittering Crustacean U
Stitched Drake U
Stormbound Geist U
Striped Riverwinder U
Thunder Drake U
Vexing Gull U
Warden of Evos Isle U
Watcher in the Mist U
Witching Well U
Wretched Gryff U
Lonely Sandbar U
Blink of an Eye U
Boomerang U
Capsize U
Claustrophobia U
Compulsive Research U
Counterspell U
Deep Analysis U
Deprive U
Depths of Desire U
Displace U
Drag Under U
Essence Scatter U
Exclude U
Ghostly Flicker U
Hieroglyphic Illumination U
Impulse U
Into the Roil U
Kasmina's Transmutation U
Mana Leak U
Miscalculation U
Narcolepsy U
Omen of the Sea U
Opt U
Preordain U
Rain of Revelation U
Ray of Command U
Remove Soul U
Repeal U
Rushing River U
Scour All Possibilities U
Silent Departure U
Snap U
Thirst for Meaning U
Waterknot U
Whispers of the Muse U
Ancestral Statue CL
Bonded Construct CL
Eldrazi Devastator CL
Flayer Husk CL
Gathan Raiders CL
Gingerbrute CL
Kozilek's Channeler CL
Peace Strider CL
Perilous Myr CL
Pierce Strider CL
Porcelain Legionnaire CL
Prophet of the Peak CL
Renegade Freighter CL
Sickleslicer CL
Sparring Construct CL
Spined Thopter CL
Ulamog's Crusher CL
Vault Skirge CL
Will-Forged Golem CL
Yotian Soldier CL
Adventuring Gear CL
Armillary Sphere CL
Bonesplitter CL
Guardian Idol CL
Leonin Bola CL
Mind Stone CL
Pristine Talisman CL
Prophetic Prism CL
Serrated Arrows CL
Skyscanner CL
Star Compass CL
Sylvok Lifestaff CL
Tumble Magnet CL
Vulshok Morningstar CL
Wayfarer's Bauble CL
Desecrator Hag BG
Golgari Rotwurm BG
Putrid Leech BG
Rendclaw Trow BG
Rhizome Lurcher BG
Consume Strength BG
Aeromunculus GU
Coiling Oracle GU
Winged Coatl GU
Applied Biomancy GU
Growth Spiral GU
Snakeform GU
Double Cleave RW
Skyknight Legionnaire RW
Viashino Firstblade RW
Wojek Halberdiers RW
Rally the Peasants RW
War Flare RW
Frostburn Weird UR
Goblin Electromancer UR
Izzet Chronarch UR
Fire // Ice UR
Hypothesizzle UR
Jilt UR
Imperious Oligarch WB
Kingpin's Pet WB
Tithe Drinker WB
Final Payment WB
Pillory of the Sleepless WB
Unmake WB
Aerie Bowmasters G
Aerie Ouphes G
Ambush Viper G
Baloth Gorger G
Basking Rootwalla G
Boreal Druid G
Brindle Shoat G
Byway Courier G
Chatter of the Squirrel G
Citanul Woodreaders G
Elephant Ambush G
Elvish Mystic G
Elvish Visionary G
Fyndhorn Elves G
Hooting Mandrills G
Imperiosaur G
Jungleborn Pioneer G
Lifecraft Cavalry G
Llanowar Elves G
Maul Splicer G
Mother Bear G
Nessian Asp G
Nest Invader G
Overgrown Armasaur G
Peema Outrider G
Penumbra Spider G
Rampaging Hippo G
Sakura-Tribe Elder G
Saproling Migration G
Scatter the Seeds G
Scion of the Wild G
Scion Summoner G
Silverback Shaman G
Springbloom Druid G
Thornweald Archer G
Trumpeting Herd G
Voracious Typhon G
Walker of the Grove G
Wall of Roots G
Werebear G
Wickerbough Elder G
Wild Mongrel G
Wrecking Beast G
Yavimaya Elder G
Yavimaya Sapherd G
Young Wolf G
Tranquil Thicket G
Ambuscade G
Arachnus Web G
Band Together G
Beneath the Sands G
Cartouche of Strength G
Edge of Autumn G
Elephant Guide G
Epic Confrontation G
Evolution Charm G
Farseek G
Giant Growth G
Groundswell G
Harrow G
Krosan Tusker G
Moldervine Cloak G
Nature's Lore G
Nissa's Pilgrimage G
Pounce G
Prey Upon G
Pulse of Murasa G
Rampant Growth G
Rancor G
Ranger's Guile G
Savage Punch G
Savage Swipe G
Search for Tomorrow G
Sylvan Might G
Three Visits G
Titanic Brawl G
Vines of Vastwood G
Warbriar Blessing G
Wild Instincts G
Wildsize G
Winding Way G
Foul Orchard BG
Golgari Guildgate BG
Jungle Hollow BG
Bloodfell Caves BR
Cinder Barrens BR
Rakdos Guildgate BR
Desert CL
Simic Guildgate GU
Thornwood Falls GU
Woodland Stream GU
Blossoming Sands GW
Selesnya Guildgate GW
Tranquil Expanse GW
Gruul Guildgate RG
Rugged Highlands RG
Timber Gorge RG
Boros Guildgate RW
Stone Quarry RW
Wind-Scarred Crag RW
Dimir Guildgate UB
Dismal Backwater UB
Submerged Boneyard UB
Highland Lake UR
Izzet Guildgate UR
Swiftwater Cliffs UR
Forsaken Sanctuary WB
Orzhov Guildgate WB
Scoured Barrens WB
Azorius Guildgate WU
Meandering River WU
Tranquil Cove WU
Evolving Wilds WUBRG
Terramorphic Expanse WUBRG
Ash Barrens WUBRGCL
Warped Landscape WUBRGCL
Ahn-Crop Invader R
Beetleback Chief R
Bogardan Dragonheart R
Brazen Wolves R
Burning Prophet R
Burning-Tree Vandal R
Dragon Fodder R
Fanatical Firebrand R
Fervent Cathar R
Fireslinger R
Flurry of Horns R
Frenzied Goblin R
Ghirapur Gearcrafter R
Ghitu Slinger R
Goblin Heelcutter R
Goblin Instigator R
Goblin Smuggler R
Grim Initiate R
Hissing Iguanar R
Hordeling Outburst R
Inner-Flame Acolyte R
Insolent Neonate R
Irreverent Revelers R
Jackal Pup R
Keldon Marauders R
Keldon Raider R
Krenko's Command R
Merchant of the Vale R
Minotaur Skullcleaver R
Mogg Fanatic R
Mogg Flunkies R
Mogg War Marshal R
Nest Robber R
Orcish Hellraiser R
Plated Geopede R
Pouncing Kavu R
Quakefoot Cyclops R
Raging Kronch R
Scorched Rusalka R
Scourge Devil R
Skirk Marauder R
Skophos Warleader R
Suq'Ata Lancer R
Thrill of Possibility R
Viashino Pyromancer R
Viashino Sandsprinter R
Voldaren Duelist R
Vulshok Sorcerer R
Wildfire Elemental R
Forgotten Cave R
Act of Treason R
Arc Lightning R
Artillerize R
Brute Strength R
Burn Bright R
Burst Lightning R
Chain Lightning R
Dynacharge R
Faithless Looting R
Fire Ambush R
Fireblast R
Firebolt R
Forked Bolt R
Heartfire R
Incinerate R
Lash Out R
Lightning Bolt R
Lightning Strike R
Magma Jet R
Pillar of Flame R
Pyrotechnics R
Raid Bombardment R
Reckless Charge R
Rift Bolt R
Searing Blaze R
Searing Spear R
Shard Volley R
Skewer the Critics R
Staggershock R
Trumpet Blast R
Volcanic Hammer R
Sangrite Backlash BRG
Crystallization GWU
Wild Nacatl RGW
Nightscape Familiar UBR
Stormscape Apprentice WUB
Ardenvale Tactician W
Attended Knight W
Aven Riftwatcher W
Aviary Mechanic W
Battle Screech W
Call the Cavalry W
Coalition Honor Guard W
Countless Gears Renegade W
Custodi Squire W
Daring Skyjek W
Dauntless Cathar W
Daybreak Chimera W
Doomed Traveler W
Elite Vanguard W
Faerie Guidemother W
Gallant Cavalry W
Gather the Townsfolk W
Gideon's Lawkeeper W
Glint-Sleeve Artisan W
Goldmeadow Harrier W
Guardian of the Guildpact W
Hunted Witness W
Kabuto Moth W
Kor Skyfisher W
Law-Rune Enforcer W
Lone Missionary W
Loyal Cathar W
Loyal Pegasus W
Mardu Hordechief W
Martyr of Dusk W
Martyr's Soul W
Mistmoon Griffin W
Mistral Charger W
Plover Knights W
Raise the Alarm W
Rhox Veteran W
Sandsteppe Outcast W
Savannah Lions W
Seeker of the Way W
Seraph of Dawn W
Squad Captain W
Stonehorn Dignitary W
Stormfront Pegasus W
Supply-Line Cranes W
Syndic of Tithes W
Thraben Inspector W
Totem-Guide Hartebeest W
Triplicate Spirits W
Whitemane Lion W
Secluded Steppe W
Acrobatic Maneuver W
Angelic Purge W
Angelic Renewal W
Apex Hawks W
Arrest W
Blinding Beam W
Bonds of Faith W
Borrowed Grace W
Cage of Hands W
Cloudshift W
Ephemerate W
Faith's Fetters W
Feat of Resistance W
Flicker of Fate W
Fortify W
Gods Willing W
Humble W
Inspired Charge W
Journey to Nowhere W
Oblivion Ring W
Otherworldly Journey W
Pacifism W
Prismatic Strands W
Réprobation W
Settle Beyond Reality W
Shelter W
Stave Off W
Suppression Bonds W
Temporal Isolation W
Test of Faith W
Trapped in the Tower W


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