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By: Doctor Anime, Tomer Abramovici
Sep 30 2013 12:07pm
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In addition to my love of Commander and drafting, I've also become invested in Cubes. Specifically, the wonderful formats of Pauper and Peasant Cubes. I plan on writing some articles for set reviews with a P&P Cube lens, general cube building theories, and other topics as they come to mind, but first I need a proper introductory article. After all, P&P Cubes are a small subdivision of a small Magic community, so most of you guys probably don't even know what it is! 

So, here's what you need to know: 

What is Cube?
Cube is a booster draft variant in which the pool is a predetermined set of cards picked for the sole purpose of drafting them. The pool of cards is called a cube and usually contains a minimum of 360 cards to accommodate an 8-player booster draft. Cards used in a cube are usually unique in that no card appears more than once in a draft.
 
The most popular and recognized cube theme is a collection of the most powerful cards throughout Magic’s history, such as the official MTGO Cube. There are many other themes, however, such as Pauper and Peasant. 
 
What is Pauper Cube?
Pauper is a cube theme that consists entirely of cards at common rarity. This includes any card that has been printed at common in any edition, even if it’s found at a different rarity in other editions. For example, Mulldrifter is legal because it was printed at common rarity in Lorwyn, even though it has been bumped to uncommon in Modern Masters.
 
 
What is Peasant Cube?
Like Pauper, cards in Peasant are restricted by rarity. Instead of just commons, Peasant includes both uncommons and commons. A card like Reach of Branches is legal because although it was printed as rare in Lorwyn, the Modern Masters version is uncommon. 
 
You mean there’s no Ancestral Recall or Black Lotus in Pauper or Peasant?
No. There are still some pretty broken cards available in these formats, especially in Peasant. Mana Drain, Land Tax, Control Magic, and many other iconic cards that show up in the most high-powered cubes are available. In fact, there are some power cards that even MTGO’s official cube doesn’t run, such as Rolling Thunder
 
 
 
No Power 9?! That’s stupid! You’re stupid!
I have feelings, you know. Why do you have to be so mean? 
 
I’m sorry. You’re an intelligent and handsome man, Doctor Anime. But I need further convincing before I try out Pauper or Peasant Cube. Why should I bother with them over a traditional, high-powered cube?
Thank you, Question Guy. Allow me to explain:
 
I’m not saying that Pauper or Peasant Cube is better than high-powered cube. I love those cubes as well. I usually draft it a couple times each time MTGO brings it back. I get a happy tingly feeling every time I vomit out 3+ mana rocks and the rest of my hand turn 1 followed by a Timetwister to replenish my hand and screw over my opponent before he even gets to do anything. It’s truly a unique and exciting experience to play with legendary cards that most people otherwise wouldn’t have a chance to try out.
 
There are a few things Pauper and Peasant Cube brings to the table, however. I’ll list a couple of them:
 
#1 Variety
 Too much of the same thing can dampen the experience. Part of the appeal of high-powered cube is that you don’t get to play with them often, which heightens the fun when you do get to play. If you happen to play high-powered cube a lot, that unique feeling of joy surveying a pack filled with Magic history's best cards is lessened more and more as you become accustomed to playing the format. Powered cube loses some of its “specialness” if you play too much.
 
Pauper and Peasant cubes don’t have to be a replacement to high-powered cubes. Similarly, just because Theros drafts are upon us soon doesn’t mean that you won’t ever again be able to draft Return to Ravnica block. It’s simply more variety to keep things fresh. Of course, the question of price comes up if you start trying to build multiple cubes, which leads to my second point.
 
#2 Cheap!
Pauper and Peasant Cubes can be incredibly cheap to build. My Pauper Cube, which runs the most powerful and expensive commons available such as the $12 Chain Lightning, is listed around $80 according to tcgplayer.com’s middle price. This is a misleading price, however, as the bulk of cards in my list are essentially free. The majority of Pauper lists are comprised of ~20 cent cards that, in reality, can easily be found free of charge since there is such a huge supply of them and next to no demand. These are the types of cards you’ll fine strewn about tables at your local game store after a draft is completed, because they’re considered so worthless to most players that they don’t even bother taking them back home after they’re done playing. After poking through my own collection of cards and asking some friends, I had around 300 of the 400 cards needed to construct my Pauper Cube without spending a dime. The rest of the cards I easily traded for, save for the only card I had to purchase, a single Chain Lightning.
 
Peasant is generally more expensive than Pauper, but primarily because there are many more standout expensive cards available for high-powered lists. Cards like Demonic Tutor, Shardless Agent, Baleful Strix, and Mana Drain can drive up the price of your cube if you choose to run them.
 

You'd be surprised how many P&P Cube staples you have languishing in your junk piles! Put them to good use!
 
#3 Still Powerful!
Obviously Pauper and Peasant cannot match the power level of P9 cubes, but that doesn’t mean the available card pool is weak. A pauper pool can be much more powerful than any regular draft set.
 
The reason for this is because throughout Magic’s history there have been many powerful cards at common rarity. Many of these cards are worthy 1st picks in the draft sets they were originally included in, such as Lightning Bolt and Mulldrifter. Others are far too powerful to ever see a modern set release, such as Rolling Thunder and Hymn to Tourach. All these dominant cards are commons, so it should come as no surprise that combining all these cards will make quite a powerful pool!
 
And once you go Peasant and start upgrading towards uncommons, well, let’s just say things get crazy pretty fast. This is the land of Cloudgoat Ranger, Control Magic, Pelakka Wurm, and other bombtastic limited cards.
 
TLDR; Pauper and Peasant Cubes are great because they add another way to play your favorite game. They take your most loved cards from draft sets and jam them together into one super awesome cube. It costs next to nothing to assemble one as you can probably gather most of the cards for free from your own collection or your friends / LGS. Pauper and Peasant uses cards you’d previously consider “worthless” and gives them a purpose. I look forward to each new set of Magic with even more joy and enthusiasm than before because I’m now interested in not just a couple rares and mythics, but also a dozen or so commons and uncommons that I can acquire essentially for free. 
 
That was an incredibly handsome and intelligent argument, Doctor Anime. You’ve won me over. What can I expect from your average Pauper or Peasant Cubes? How do they play out?
 
Great questions, Question Guy! I’d be happy to describe these themes.
 
 
Pauper Cube tends to be a more aggressive draft. There are many powerful spells in the 1-3 cmc range but less expensive bombs available, making your average pool curve lower than average. There is an abundant variety of aggressive, evasive creatures in most every color (least in green), and a generous helping of midrange creatures that dictate the flow of battle. It’s harder to find powerful defensive control creatures that can match pain-dishing creatures such as Dauthi Slayer. Manafixing is hard to come by so most decks tend to stick with 1 or 2 colors.
 
Most of the best removal spells in the game are available at common. Targeted removal such as Snuff Out, Lightning Bolt, Agony Warp, Doom Blade are all available. Giant sweepers such as Pestilence, Rolling Thunder, (Evincar’s Justice), and Fireball can easily wipe the board clean. Because this disproportionately high amount of exceptional removal, creatures must be able to have a level of resiliency to being killed off or have so much raw power that they’re worth the risk of immediate death. Haste, shroud, hexproof, and enter the battlefield (ETB) effects are all much more powerful in this kind of environment than normally so. Cheap answers to cheap removal, such as Vines of Vastwood, also become stronger.
 
This is in stark contrast to removal-light environments such as Theros, for example, where an Aqueous Form can do some serious work without too much fear of being 2for1’d and heroic creatures, dudes that take a bit of time to be awesome, end up ruling the format. These types of cards wouldn’t fare well in your typical Pauper Cube.
 
In terms of broken cards, in my opinion there aren’t too many that you need to watch out for. General consensus is that Skullclamp is too strong, otherwise all the commons are fair game. I personally cut down a little on the sheer density of awesome removal to help avoid situations where players end up having staring contests if no creature can stick around.
 
Put this all together, and you’ve got an aggressive format that generally favors midrange/aggro decks that rely heavily on tempo, taking out your opponent’s creatures while protecting your own.
 
 
Peasant Cube has many similarities, but the upgrade of many common cards to uncommon leads to some key differences. The biggest change is the power boost that control decks receive. Manafixing gets much better and there’s more support to go tricolor with the help of Lorwyn Vivid Lands such as Vivid Meadow and Alara trilands such as Crumbling Necropolis. More expensive bombs are introduced to fill out the mana curve, including Rise of the Eldrazi darling Pelakka Wurm, which serves to balance the highly aggressive and evasive smaller beaters.
 
While all colors get card upgrades, not all the colors benefit equally. Blue tends to pick up a high far quantity of power cards than the other colors. Mana Drain, Control Magic, Crystal Shard, Opportunity, Persuasion, the list goes on.
 
With a bigger card list to choose from comes more broken cards to be wary of. General consensus amongst the Peasant Cube community is to leave out Ghostly Prison and Propaganda, which simply destroys any hope aggro decks have of winning. Personally, I feel that throwing in the very best uncommons together leads to control decks being a bit too good for my tastes, particularly blue control, so I leave out a couple power cards to help keep aggro strategies viable.
 
With these things in mind, you have a slower format than Pauper, with generally a shift away from midrange/aggro towards midrange/control.
 
 
Note that these two descriptions are generalizations. It’s what happens when you take what are generally considered the most powerful cards available (the staples) and slam them all together into a cube. You don’t have to add anything to your cube that you don’t want to. With tweaking, you can make the cube work however you want it to work.
 
You can even add further themes to your cube. I’ve seen a Peasant Artifact Cube which focused on artifacts, using cards primarily from Mirrodin, Scars of Mirrodin, and esper cards from Shards of Alara. The “best” cards in that type of cube are totally different than your general Peasant Cube. It’s awesome.
 

That's all for now. Next article will be an in-depth Theros review for P&P Cubes. Spoiler: Theros is VERY GOOD for P&P Cube!

 

Pauper & Peasant Cubes Archive

6 Comments

Modern Silverblack Cube by vaultboyhunter at Mon, 09/30/2013 - 16:06
vaultboyhunter's picture

I put together a Modern Silverblack cube on mtgo. Looking for drafters. Anyone up for it add me, vaultboyhunter.

Good article.

I don't know how you'd do the by Doctor Anime at Tue, 10/01/2013 - 11:04
Doctor Anime's picture

I don't know how you'd do the draft portion online but count me in!

Like by pfirpfel at Sun, 10/06/2013 - 06:56
pfirpfel's picture

Like that:
http://www.reddit.com/r/mtgcube/comments/1kyefd/guide_custom_cube_drafts...

Great article! I'm glad by kelvinmai at Tue, 10/01/2013 - 17:57
kelvinmai's picture

Great article! I'm glad there's more cube posts on pureMTGO now :)

You draft on a website. by vaultboyhunter at Tue, 10/01/2013 - 23:02
vaultboyhunter's picture

Like Cubetutor or Tappedout. Then just play it like a normal draft. Are you Doctoranime on Mtgo?

I'm down for online cubes. by blandestk at Thu, 10/03/2013 - 15:49
blandestk's picture

I'm down for online cubes. huffy henry is the name if you want to add.