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By: SpikeBoyM, Alex Ullman
Jun 15 2009 11:32am
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I am going to cut right to the chase this week: the combat rule changes from M10 going on are not the end of Magic, they are just the end of Magic as we know it to be currently, and this is not a bad thing. Magic is about change- formats rotate, new mechanics are introduced that change the way we play the game constantly (think Madness, Storm, Dredge, etc.). All of these changes the rules in some way. As a community, we are just in shock by the degree of change that took place this time. We should be feeling shock because this is a big change.

As I have mentioned numerous times before, I have been around Magic for a long time. I have seen the changes that were supposed to kill Magic: Sixth Edition Rules, the new card faces, Planeswalkers, Mythic Rares. These all somehow changed the way we think about Magic and now, now they are part of our culture.

So why all the clamor over another change? Because this one...this one somehow attacks the core of every Magic player. One of the things that keeps people interested in the game is the combat phase. It is that adrenaline rush every turn as you prepare to turn your guys sideways into battle, commanding them with the knowledge of a superior general on the battlefield (I am fine with the name changes, by the way). The love of combat calls back to that visceral love of large monster smashing into each other; who hasn't imagined what it looks like when a Craw Wurm tussles with a Hill Giant. It grows and evolves from something primal to something refined and roguish, where you deftly do battle with an ace up your sleeve, allowing your simple little Mogg Fanatic to play saboteur to your opponent's well laid plans. It then takes that next step to an art, where bluffing becomes ingrained into your skull and you just know, know, that you cannot be bested in combat. This is why we love the combat phase- it is the best physical manifestation of our imagination about Magic. It is a pinnacle of skill that must be mastered to improve. Combat now separates the best from the average. Those of us playing with these rules for ten years love this, because we are far closer to master than apprentice on this scale.

What I just described to you will not change with the new rules. Rather, the path we take to get there will change. Our monsters have not changed, just the tricks we have to learn- and I have faith that there will be tricks.

I also feel that many are upset over the change because it means their well tuned skills not count for nothing, as they have to learn entire new ways to outsmart their opponent. I am not happy about this either, as I have grown accustomed to this style of play. However, I am human- I will adapt and change and become a combat master once more.

Life is change, entropy is the only constant force in the universe, and Magic is no different. I still reserve my right to hate the new rules upon playing with them, and the cards from M10 and Zendikar, but I will continue to play the game I love and share that love with all of you.

What does this change mean for Pauper, however? Quite a bit. First and foremost, decks like Blightning Husk are no longer as explosive. Yes, you can still wreck havoc on a combat phase thanks to stuffing your Nantuko Husk full of Mogg War Marshal tokens, but the trades will not be the same. Keldon Marauders becomes just a Lava Axe, not a removal spell like it once was. The deck will survive, but not as it was before. This is not a bad thing.

MBC suffers. Gone are the days of the Crypt Rats attack, where MBC would enter combat confident that it could use the poor man's Wrath to come out ahead. Now, using Rats in combat becomes far more harmful to the controller as more mana will have to be pumped in for the same outcome. This is not a bad thing.

MUC suffers. No longer will this deck be able to take on large beaters with a confident Spire Golem, hoping to trade and then Repulse said Golem back to the hand for a trade. The days of the eternally blocking Fathom Seer are no more. Blue has lost access to its best combat trick, and the masses, I promise, will rejoice. This is not a bad thing.

The change in rules means a change in Pauper, and so it goes. Combat tricks will not have different values, as permanent power boosters are now not nearly as card disadvantageous compared to instant pump as they once were. Imagine a world where Lightning Talons approach Brute Force in utility, because I can see this day coming in the dog days of July.

Sorcery speed “tricks,” in my estimation, have gotten stronger. Again, the value of casting a trick pre-combat is no longer so far down from casting one during the combat step. Monstrify becomes borderline playable as it can constantly make something bigger and therefore force the defender to come up with new and interesting ways to block said monster. Excommunicate grows a touch in strength, and lining up potential blockers now has an added emphasis. I am not saying that these things will happen, only that the opportunity for this change has come to pass.

The final little point is the altering of the way Lifelink works, and the imminent reverting of Armadillo Cloak to its original wording. Lifelink is no longer triggered, which means that as soon as the damage happens you will gain the life- no longer can you suffer lethal damage with the Lifelink trigger on the stack. However, Lifelink no longer stacks in multiple instances. Cloak will revert back to its original wording, meaning that it is triggered and does stack in multiple instances.

Switching gears, I have hit a little bit of a funk competitively. This is nothing new, as every few months I hit a wall. For some reason, I cannot buy a win with any deck, regardless of quality or edge on the field. I get frustrated and angry, unable to fathom how I am unable to win. Thankfully, I have found a paper tournament site where I can get some games in and become part of a scene, and also draft. But what am I to do online? While certain formats exist, they just do not do it for me like this one: Online Pauper Cube.

How, you may ask, does one Cube draft online? Does Cube not imply sharing a stack of cards for draft? There is no way to do a casual draft without packs? Ah, but there is a way to accomplish a Cube draft online, and the painstakingly complex method of accomplishing the draft is a testament to exactly how much fun you can have with a stack of limited fodder.

For those of you who may not be familiar with the Cube, it is a limited format where one player (I'll get to this point in a second) creates a box of cards for limited formats, usually draft, where everyone drafts from this set. There can only be one of each card in a Cube, and usually the box of cards is based around having the best possible cards available. Cubes have no fewer than 360 cards (enough for 8 drafters) and usually more, in case you want to set up multiple pods and have some variance from draft to draft. The colors must be balanced, to some degree, with each color having access to the same number of cards. Depending on the draft environment you want to create, differing numbers of tri-color, allied color, enemy color, artifacts, and lands may be included as well. My cube currently has 455 cards, so an eight person draft will have a good chance of some variance.

Speaking of my Cube, here is the list.

This is my Cube, and it is a work in progress. I am not totally sold on every card (and in fact, am sure to be changing some once the rules change goes into effect). I wanted to build a cube that has some powerful interactions and reward multiple styles of drafting. However, because I built it, it reflects things I look for in drafts, notably quick efficient beats backed up with disruption and tempo. However, when you are drafting an archetype with this cube, you can really get some sick decks. My personal favorite is UW Soldiers, which can get very unfair with cards like Heavy Ballista and Daru Stinger backed up with bounce. Yup, just like all my constructed decks.

If you are looking to draft with this cube, a few words to the wise:

1) This is a 16 land format. Thanks to the abundance of mana fixing and strong cards, you can get away with running 16 lands in most decks, and fluctuate from there. This is not a hard and fast rule, as I've run decks with 18 land and also decks with 14.

2) Try to be two colors, unless you take the best mana fixing. The tools are there for strong five color decks, but do not force them. I have seen people send awful signals and end up with a plethora of powerful cards, but no real way to run them. Two colors and a splash can often be the way to go, and the splash can often come at no cost thanks to the abundance of fixing.

3) Be flexible in draft. There are linear strategies, like tribal, and other good combinations of cards, like GW Fat.

4) Sadly, thanks to the cards available at common, allied color pairs are much stronger than enemy color pairs. That does not mean you should ignore the enemy pairs, though, as they can provide potent decks provided the right cards.

If anyone has any suggestions for the Cube, please sound off in the forums. All help is appreciated.

Oh, where are my manners, I forgot to explain how to draft the thing. Well, as you may notice, I have the entire cube set up with each card corresponding to a number. To set up a draft (or sealed, or whatever), you are going to have to go to a Random Number generator and set up a sequence from 1 to 455, then parcel them out into chunks of 15 (or 45 if you find it easier), and message these numbers to the drafters. The drafters will then decode their numbers into packs of 15, either ahead of time or before each pack. Alternatively, someone outside the draft could generate the packs ahead of time and PM them to everyone.

Once the packs are determined, the draft order is decided upon however you so choose (teams, randomly, whatever). Everyone has their list, opens up private messages, and passes the text list, minus one card, left right left, just like a draft. It is helpful to have someone moderate the draft if your group is doing it for the first time, to make sure there is no log jam of packs.

Then, once the decks are drafted, people build their deck. Now, unlike Cube where you have one person with all the cards provided, here you actually have to provide your own, so sometimes the set up takes a little longer as people have to look up options and purchases key cards for their decks.

This set up takes a ton of work, but I assure you everyone who has done a Cube draft or sealed with me has told me how much fun they have had and all agree that the set up is totally worth the time thanks to the payoff. If, however, you have ideas about making this simpler, by all means sound off in the forums.

One final word for the upcoming PE: Prepare for Affinity and Blue Skies.

Keep slingin' commons-





Momentary Blink by JPLiberato at Mon, 06/15/2009 - 12:06
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You didn't mention in your article, but I think the deck that will suffer the most is not MUC or MBC, but blink decks. Momentary Blink is probably the card that will lose most power. No longer you can stack damage and blink that Mulldrifter, or Blind Hunter, or Chittering Rats, or Trinket Mage, or any other cards we are used to blink to get an obscene advantage by killing an opposing critter, saving our dude and getting something extra. I think that change will affect extended more than classic where decks like Orzhov Blink, Cogs and Stripes and Esper Cogs are major forces. As result, the Steam Machine and fast aggro decks like MGA or Elves! are going to rise in power and popularity.

MUC by TopBossUltra (not verified) at Mon, 06/15/2009 - 13:32
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I don't think the change to MUC is terribly important. That deck will still be great with or without two combat tricks. I agree with Liberato that Blink suffers most from this, but that deck has been on the decline lately anyway.

The only question for the MUC by Anonymous (not verified) at Mon, 06/15/2009 - 13:49
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The only question for the MUC player is how high do value, and how many boomerang type cards do you use? Just as soon as you part w/ them some silly opponent will slap a Shield of the Oversoul on his white/green creature.

MUC by TopBossUltra (not verified) at Mon, 06/15/2009 - 14:13
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MUC will still use 3 Repulse 1 Echoing Truth unless the m10 brings metagame changes that require something else. The bounce on the Spire Golem in combat is rarely a useful trick, and you can still soak up the damage with him that way. You just don't get to kill the opponents creature (assuming it was a 4/2 or something like that). The bounce is also still very important to get your Spire Golem off the "Battlefield" (that will take some getting used to) when removal is coming his way.

you really come across as by Anonymous (not verified) at Tue, 06/16/2009 - 02:19
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you really come across as arrogant and this format just seems silly.

Anonymous posters cannot be by JMason (not verified) at Tue, 06/16/2009 - 06:16
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Anonymous posters cannot be taken seriously.
Which format are you calling silly, pauper or cube? Please clarify for accurate rebuttal.
As for arrogant, I thought Alex was being unusually humble here, admitting a slump, and in general his articles have become much less dogmatic of late.

I think my first reaction to by The_Raging _Flump (not verified) at Tue, 06/16/2009 - 05:10
The_Raging _Flump's picture

I think my first reaction to seeing the rule changes, was the same as most - good, good, fine, what? wait! No combat tricks! What are they doing! But given time to cool down, I came to the same conclusion - it's just a change that we will have to learn to adapt and may even improve the game - we'll see.

It was another fantastic article, but one thing in particular sprung out -
"I have hit a little bit of a funk competitively. This is nothing new, as every few months I hit a wall. For some reason, I cannot buy a win with any deck, regardless of quality or edge on the field. I get frustrated and angry, unable to fathom how I am unable to win. "

This happens a lot to me as well, normally following a good spell, then I play frustrated and angry, which affects my game, causing more losses. I am only just learning to accept these bad spells, which in turn lessons the frustration allowing normal play to resume quicker. But it's good to hear it happens to others as well.

The content is pretty by LOurs at Tue, 06/16/2009 - 08:26
LOurs's picture

The content is pretty interesting as usual in your article, with a nice & precise analyzis of pauper meta.

Only a constructive comment about the look of your article : please put some pictures to give a breath to the read. I am not natural english speaker, so it is long and sometime hard to read article even if i really enjoy its contents. Again, your explanations are pretty nice, it is just a way to make them more enjoyable than they already are. take care.