Pauper Cube: Artifacts and Lands

Written by Ezra Sassaman on . Posted in Casual Magic, Cube

Pauper Cube: Artifacts and Lands

Ezra Sassaman

Ezra Sassaman has been playing Magic since he got a sweet Ravnica theme deck for his 12th birthday. Since then, he has been an avid follower of all aspects of the game. In his free time, he enjoys Cube-drafting with his friends in Bar Harbor, Maine.

Last week, we talked about the big stompy creatures and ramp spells of the color green. This week, we will conclude the Pauper Cube articles by talking about colorless cards, artifact cards, and utility lands.

Aggressive: Equipment and Vehicles

One type of artifacts that complements aggressive strategy are equipment cards. The card Bonesplitter in particular is powerful with cheap creatures, turning any 1/1 token into a more threatening beater. Equipment cards, like green pump spells, prove especially important when combined with small, evasive threats. While an opponent can often ignore the 10-turn clock of Stormfront Pegasus or Dauthi Horror, putting a Bonesplitter or Vulshok Morningstar on your creature can threaten your opponent’s life total much more effectively. Kitesail gives you the best of both worlds, pumping your creature and granting it evasion too! Kitesail works especially well with green fatties like Imperiosaur and Nessian Asp (but remember you can’t put equipment on the untargetable Blastoderm). The recent set Kaladesh added another exciting type of common artifact to the mix, vehicles! Vehicles enable aggressive decks to come out of the gates quickly with cards like Sky Skiff and Renegade Freighter. The card Aradara Express also creates a large threat that can fit into many creature-heavy decks. I can easily imagine the “train” turning four 1/1 tokens or a 4-power creature into a huge 8/6! While a vehicle can work for a short time with Auras and Equipment, remember that these enhancements will fall off at the end of turn when it stops being a creature.

Filling Color Gaps

In previous articles, we mentioned the power of two color decks: colors’ strengths can fill the weaknesses of other colors. But artifacts can accomplish the same goal without forcing a deck to play more than one color. One advantage of artifacts and cards that can be cast for colorless mana and Phyrexian mana (for example, Vault Skirge) is that they be played in decks of any color. In this way, a monoblue deck can play a large creature in the form of Thundering Tanadon and a monogreen deck can take advantage of Serrated Arrows or Aeolipile to remove problematic creatures. Just like colored cards, artifacts can help supplement aggressive strategies and control strategies alike. For example, a monoblue control deck often has problems dealing with threats once they are already on the battlefield. A deck that comes out of the gates too quickly, such as a red aggro deck, could get cheap creatures on the board before the control deck has access to cards like Counterspell and Exclude to handle them. However, the addition of cards like Tumble Magnet, Porcelain Legionnaire, and Pristine Talisman can make the difference between falling behind on life and the board and stabilizing before the opponent gets in too much damage.

In a similar way. a monored aggro deck can take advantage of colorless spells and artifacts to add depth to its own strategy. Usually, this color does not have a chance to use trickery: it simply plays out all its cards and hopes this will be enough. But cards like Apostle’s Blessing and Mutagenic Growth can give a deck like this surprise value, using the effects of white and green cards while not actually having to play these colors. Usually, an opposing deck can safely Sunlance or Disfigure a small, red creature without thinking twice about it. Adding Phryexian mana tricks to this aggressive deck, however, can certainly catch opponents off guard.

Artifact Mana Ramp and Mana Fixing

One of the best uses for artifacts is mana-ramp. Every green player knows the great feeling of a board full of lands and being able to cast every card in their hand, threatening to end the game with huge 8-mana threats and x-spells. Artifact mana can make this dream come true for any color. With artifact mana, a blue-red control deck can make sure its Condescend, Capsize, and Rolling Thunder get really out of hand. While a green deck can make use of mana-elves and Rampant Growth effects to get ahead on mana, cards like the cycle of Signets, Mind Stone, and Sisay’s Ring can allow any deck to flourish with heaps of mana. In fact, who even needs colors? Sometimes it is fun to make a mostly colorless deck that uses mana rocks to cast Ulamog’s Crusher and Eldrazi Devastator, while using colorless mana fixing like Chromatic Star and Prismatic Lens to splash the best big-mana cards of each color. Maybe you have a Fireball, an Evincar’s Justice, a Sprout Swarm, and a Dinrova Horror as your colored cards — just fill your deck with all the right signets and you will be able to cast whatever you want!

Utility Lands

In most cubes, man-lands are a way to play extra “cards” in your deck while also ensuring you will have enough lands to cast your spells. Because most lands that can turn into creatures are uncommon or rare, cards like Mutavault and Raging Ravine are unfortunately not present in the Pauper Cube. Over the course of Magic’s history, however, there have been many common lands that do more than just tap for mana! For more aggressively-oriented decks, you can use cards like Teetering Peaks and Piranha Marsh to deal your opponent a few more damage. Aggressive decks have a tendency to operate with only a few lands, so it is nice to have your fourth and fifth land drop progress your game plan instead of just being unneeded extra mana.

Control decks, on the other hand, love hitting land drops late into the game. But because control decks often have so many lands to cast powerful spells, it is also nice to have some lands that can help make it to the late game. This is where cards like Kabira Crossroads, Halimar Depths, and Desert come in. While the effects of these cards are each relatively small, utility can add up, especially for a control deck. Just imagine the difference between having two Plains and an Island on the battlefield or a Desert, an Island and a Kabira Crossroads when facing an aggressive start where the opponent has a Stormfront Pegasus or a Ghirapur Gearcrafter. With only basic lands, you start at 20 life and these creatures represent serious pressure. In the second example, however, you immediately gain two life in the first few turns of the game and your Desert can do serious work against cards like Mogg War Marshal or Scatter the Seeds.

There are also a few common lands that create creatures. Khalni Garden is a nice way for green to keep its creature count high while only using a land. While a 0/1 token might not seem like much, between Rancor, Ivy Lane Denizen, Scion of the Wild, and convoke costs, green has plenty of ways to put this small plant to good use. For midrange strategies, Haunted Fengraf and Cradle of the Accursed are both ways to trade a land for an opponent’s nonland card — a sort of card quality advantage. Finally, the Ravnica bounce-lands can allow you to reuse any lands with enters-the-battlefield-effects while fixing your mana at the same time!

Fixing Lands

Speaking of fixing, my pauper cube has twenty dual lands, two of each color pair, as well as a few lands that can get any color, like Ash Barrens, Evolving Wilds, and Terramorphic Expanse. While it was my personal decision to not include any three-color cards in my cube, The Alara and Tarkir blocks are both full of great three-color commons like Carrion Thrash, the “blade” cycle from Alara Reborn, and the Efreet Weaponmaster cycle from Khans of Tarkir. If you want to include more multicolored cards, there are also more common multicolor lands to choose from, such as Transguild Promenade, Rupture Spire, Warped Landscape, gates from Return to Ravnica, and an entire cycle of 10 taplands reprinted as commons in Amonkhet.

Conclusion

That’s all for the Pauper Cube (for now)! I hope you enjoyed reading my articles, and I hope they inspired you to create a Pauper Cube of your own!

Thanks for reading!

As always, feel free to comment and check out my pauper cube list!

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