Pauper Cube episode of Color Commontary!   Leave a comment

I guested on the Color Commontary podcast to talk about pauper cube.  I talked about my general cube history, ideologies and my own list on the episode.  It’s about 2 hours long and my voice was pretty rough because of being under the weather, but I thought it turned out pretty well!


Posted April 3, 2018 by Usman in Uncategorized

New blog title, among other things!   Leave a comment

I’ve decided that, after over 7 years, to have the blog name changed to one that reflects its purpose as a blog for the podcast, so it’ll now by The Third Power Podcast blog.

In theory, this means that I’ll be posting more content here.

In reality… yeah.  🙂

So what’s new?

I wrote an article reviewing the pauper and peasant ramifications of Masters 25 on pauper and peasant cubes.  I’m unsure why I forgot to include Finkel, likely because it’s an obvious inclusion for Dimir (#2 behind Baleful Strix.)  But yeah, there ya go!

This also prompted me to finally update my pauper cube (again) here.

It’s admittedly less popular than my powered cube, but then again, I think most people tend to be more excited by cards like Liliana of the Veil and Entomb than Unearth and Pestilence.  Personally, I love both flavors, but that’s me.

As pauper cube is still a pretty unexplored territory, there seem to be less entrenched opinions on it.  Combine that with going into pretty uncharted waters (I don’t know of many, if any, pauper cubes running things like Elvish Visionary and Court Homunculous) makes it even more… murky, but I’m very happy with how it’s turned out.

You may ask “aren’t signets and bouncelands too good for pauper cube?  don’t they just make 5cc too powerful?”

They do not.

Years ago, I wrote an article about how Tom LaPille said he took signets and bouncelands out of his cube as they “made attack and green decks bad.”  Personally, I’ve drafted cubes where I force 5-color-control as hard as possible, from taking every mana fixing land and mana rock (signets, talismans, even things like cluestones in some pauper cubes) and typically crushing people because I’d be able to go over the top of everyone.  Why?  Because I wouldn’t be punished by decks that would go under me as aggressive decks were a non-existent part of the metagame.

A few years ago, I rebooted my pauper cube and kept all of the signets there.  Since then, I found that:

Having had a pauper cube for a bit over 6 years and actively tracking the decks that 3-0 since 6/2/2015 (around the time I did a big reboot of my pauper cube), I don’t find the argument that signets make 5cc too good to hold water. I remember a time a few years ago when someone who eventually went 3-0 with this deck – – was going to play against someone who tends to play 5-color-goodstuff decks and I said “lemme look at this deck”, quickly went through it and said “Well, congrats on your win” and unsurprisingly, he stomped the goodstuff deck.

I recently checked stats on the 26 decks that 3-0ed and only 6 had a signet (and most that did usually ended up as 2-color, with the exception being a Jund deck) with one being a UW aggro deck that wanted Azorius Signet for metalcraft.  About 10 of the decks had a bounceland, and that’s mainly because bouncelands are better than just about everything else in the format – there’s not really any dual lands that ETB untapped (guildgates/khans lands all ETB tapped) and the drawback of bouncing a land isn’t that bad for aggro decks either.  5-color-goodstuff decks aren’t really a big part of the meta, since they can’t really afford to durdle around or else they lose to the more proactive decks in the format.  It’s easy to see durdling decks dominating a format and blaming cards in them – seeing decks with signets and bouncelands dominating a format and saying “See!  They’re too good!  They’re dominating the format!” when generally, there are underlying issues at hand.

I’ve been happy with other things as well like the artifact package and some have transitioned to my powered cube, as well as other things like Gitaxian Probe.

Here are some recent 3-0s as well.

pauper - 2018 02 22 Wg.PNG

pauper - 2017 11 31 RG

There are a *lot* of cards in my on-deck binder of things I’ll probably rotate in and out – one of the things that tends to annoy me in cube discussion is when people tend to look at it as a card being not included either because of it “being bad”, which isn’t really true (only a small part of it.)  There’s a few standouts like Seal of Fire that I really want to get in there, as well as others like Countless Gears Renegade and many others.

You may be wondering why I haven’t updated my powered cubeDo not mistake this for me not drafting it (I draft it almost weekly, and almost always with a small change or two between drafts) – as I’m still working with making some artifact changes in it.  I’ve talked briefly about it on the podcast and once I’m happy with the changes, I’ll make a big update/reset to it.

We’re also looking to create another Third Power token which should be in card token size that will fill a niche that hasn’t been serviced in cube for a card that likely will never leave cubes that have rares.    The token may have deathtouch.  🙂  I’ll post here once there’s more info.

Posted March 19, 2018 by Usman in Uncategorized

TTP 70 – CAPs   Leave a comment


Posted February 6, 2018 by Usman in Crack-A-Pack, The Third Power, Uncategorized

CAP 70   Leave a comment

Posted December 26, 2017 by Usman in Uncategorized

So, uh….. hey… ?   2 comments

Well, it looks like I’ve once again forgotten to do anything with this blog.  As Anthony and I haven’t had time to record lately (as it turns out, getting time blocks for 3-4 hours aren’t as easy to get nowadays) and so, I’ve not really done much with this thing since it was mostly a crack-a-pack dumping ground.

So, hi.

I wrote a review of Hour of Devastation and Commander 2017 (PS if you don’t have Heirloom Blade in your cube, you should.)

I’m happy with how it turned out and I think the breakdown of Heirloom Blade worked out well.  Here are a couple of 3-0 decks that have utilized it well, showing that it’s not just theoretics.  The person who drafted the deck with Hellrider said “it isn’t Grafted Wargear, but it’s kinda like Skullclamp.”  Ovious exaggerations aside, it generally finds something useful, and so long as you don’t mess up and reveal your entire deck by forgetting you only have 1 devil (Hellrider), it generally works out.  No, it doesn’t have a free equip cost like Wargear, but that doesn’t mean that it shoule be discounted as “just another tribal card.”

One of these days, I wish that MaRo would write more about the concept of Additive Distraction, as I find that tends to be a pitfall of evaluation, even for those who’ve played for many years.


There aren’t many “dead ends” for the chains (the latter deck only really had 4 – Hellrider, Koth’s elementals, Bomat Courier and Figure of Destiny [which can hit things if it hits the right level.])

I’ve also finally updated my pauper cube; lately I’ve been getting in the habit of just doing a reset because it’s just easier than figuring out a series of changes in the last year.   I’m quite happy with its current direction (I wish I could cube it more, as I just draft it on the last weekly cube day of the month.)  There are a lot of good cards that obviously aren’t in there, and unfortunately, cube discussion can tend to focus on saying “card X is bad, card Y is good” or “don’t cut card X because it’s good! / no love for card X?!” etc, which doesn’t tend to be good for critical thought or thorough and holistic analysis.

That said, some thoughts:

  • My kingdom for some good red 1-drops.  The Mogg Conscripts never really panned out that well and tends to be bad in the late game when you’re in burn mode.  Same applies for good black 1-drops, but I may end up trying Night Market Lookout.
  • I’ve been pretty happy with the metalcraft/affinity package thus far.  I’ve been tinkering with cutting the guildgate cycle and putting in 10 more artifacts or 1 WUBRG / 5 artifacts, but the pool of good artifacts started to get thin.  It isn’t so much that the guildgate cycle is “bad,” because they aren’t, I’m just unsure if the effect of the meta would be better with more artifacts.  It may very well be.
  • I tried a “value storm” thing some time ago, ala Time Spiral and Modern Masters 1 – the latter being a set that had a big hand in the implementation of my pauper cube’s “reboot.”
  • Having bouncelands and signets hasn’t made aggressive decks weak.  At all.
  • Guess what the card with the most 3-0s has been in my pauper cube.  I’m pretty sure you won’t get it, even after 10 guesses.
  • Blue could probably use some more 2s and less 3s.  Maybe -Geist, +Looter il-Kor?
  • I’ve had Heliod’s Pilgrim and Totem-Guide Hartebeest in since forever, but I’ve shied away from them lately because, despite the lack of tutors in the format, they’re just slow and clunky.
    “But isn’t the rate on Heliod’s Pilgrim the same as Imperial Recruiter, by being 2X for a 1/1 tutor?”  Yeah, I dunno.  Could just be a weird feeling.

    • I also cut most of the Nantuko Husks and the only ones that remain are Bloodthrone Vampire and Carrion Feeder.  I guess I never really found the payoff to be all that great, despite seeing some 3-0s out of those decks.  Again, I’m not really sure if they weren’t worth it.
  • There are some individual cards that I’d like to include – cards that are great but I haven’t included, but are in my on-deck binder:
    Quirion Ranger, Death Spark, Mesmeric Fiend, Seraph of Drawn, Spontaneous Mutation, Runed Servitor, Mardu Skullhunter, Typhoid Rats/Pharika’s Chosen/Sedge Scorpion, Neurok Stealthsuit, Hunger of the Howlpack, Impulse, Perilous Research, Withdraw, Cloudfin Raptor, Wingcrafter, etc.
  • Like I’ve been doing lately in my other cube, I’ve been keeping multicolor and hybrid separate (since multicolor is a drawback, hybrid is a boon) and all of the hybrid is balanced in representation.  To make room for more things, I’ve kept multicolor *very* tight, with only one true multicolor in each pair.

I haven’t updated my powered cube, but don’t make the mistake of assuming that not updating a CubeTutor list == not updating it, as I pretty frequently make updates (it’s rare when I do two drafts and there isn’t at least a small change being made.)  I’ve made some pretty big changes to my powered cube with some inspiration from my pauper cube and some discussion that I had with Kranny several years ago, but I’m still working out things on it and, since these are mostly Uncharted Waters, the process is going pretty slowly.

Posted October 24, 2017 by Usman in Uncategorized

CAP 68, etc.   Leave a comment

Part 1 and Part 2 of Usman’s Amonkhet Cube article.

Posted June 8, 2017 by Usman in Uncategorized

Aether Revolt Cube Review and other such things.   4 comments

Both parts of my Aether Revolt cube review are now up on Gathering Magic.  It’s weird because I’ve seen cube updates where they’re just adding like, 3 cards, and it seems kinda odd because the set has a lot of powerful cards, but it seems like one where traditional algorithms of analysis can fail, as cards like Kari Zev’s Expertise still seem relatively underrated by the cube community, and as I assume people are going to outsource evaluations to SCG Opens, GPs/PT and whatever other events, some cards that don’t have a deck for them are likely going to remain underrated by many (like Anafenza, Kin-Tree Spirit, etc.)

As this is, well, a blog, and I’ve not really used it as one, I figured now’s a good time to do so.

One thing that I really made sure to do in this set review was to note that I’ve put these cards through many iterations of cube drafts – I cube weekly (aside from times when we don’t have enough people to draft), make (small) changes to my cube about as often, I seed cards into the draft (when trying new cards out) and aggressively ask for feedback on how the cards have been doing during new card season.

I’ve done this for years, but for some reason, I’ve always failed to note this in the language I’ve used, as, for whatever reason, I’ve stuck to the milquetoast wishy-washy language of “seems good” types of phrasing that I tend to see in writing/postings, rather than “I’ve found this card to be good, this is why” types of language that I should have been using since I had data to back up my findings.  I’ve definitely made more of a point to ask for feedback on how the cards are doing, sometimes asking at the place where we draft, other times sending contacting the drafter the next day to see how it went (a lot of the talk about how Rishkar was absurd was from those discussions after the drafter went 3-0 relatively easily with a mostly-green deck.)  This is a stark contrast to a recent time when I recommended some cube changes to someone’s cube (for Kaladesh) and he made the changes and after the draft, I asked him how the new cards were and he said that he didn’t know (he drafted another cube that he had) but that since no one complained, that it was fine, which… doesn’t really seem to say much.

Again, I have no idea why, but it seems this change in language and the amount of detail in this set of articles (from the feedback that I have received) have found that people have dug this direction that I’ve been taking my articles, from the few of you who still read them.

For those who’ve been following my work, you’ve probably noticed that my articles on GatheringMagic have mostly been set reviews, aside from an article talking about utilizing a cube expansion pack (which, ironically, I no longer use in my cube as attendance has dropped due to some former regulars being burned out on cube) as I feel hesitant on putting videos content in the same category of articles (no idea why, it may just be a completely arbitrary distinction.)

But yeah, I haven’t done a whole lot of cube design articles in the past few years despite having written, well, a lot of them (I haven’t done a count, but I’m pretty confident that I’ve done more cube design articles than any other writer has.)  It isn’t that I’ve run out of ideas, there isn’t space for them or that it isn’t worth doing but I just haven’t really gotten around to doing them in the past few years.  Part likely is due to time, it took a few weeks of on-and-off writing of the Aether Revolt article and, although I’m not on a regular writing schedule (nor do I really intend to), it’s not easy to find the time to create that content and it seems that the holistic and historical-viewing way I write is one that’s seemingly going out of style, at least if feedback (views, comments, etc.) is seen as a reliably quantifiable measure.

That said, I do have some ideas floating around in my head that I’ve been making some article drafts for which may manifest in an article or two one of these days (no, I’m not going to post what they are here, I really don’t feel like having my ideas plagiarized, thank you.)  It’s a huge stretch to say “I’m back to writing more” or “the writing spark is back” because I don’t think it really is, but I’ve at least got some ideas flowing.

Unrelated, but if you haven’t checked out Turn One Magic’s overview of the cube format, it’s worth checking out.  It’s likely the closest we’ve seen to a book written about cube and its resources.  Highly recommended, even if it may be going over material you may know already.

Posted February 6, 2017 by Usman in Uncategorized