I think that Jewel Thief might be so far the strongest common in the set. Getting a really decent body on 3 and ramping into your 5 drop basicallly for free seems super powerful. From experience "free" treasure tokens attached to otherwise decent cards have been really good. Auto include for me.
Apart from that I think that Mayhem Patrol is actually pretty decent. This will probably replace Goblin Trailblazer for me, which has performed really well so far. Menace on a 2 power 2-drop can easily guarantee several damage to the face and this one also has the niche upside of enabling another creature to attack + of course you can always cycle it for 1R with temporary token on top.
I would have really liked the Botanical Plaza-Cycle to be all 10, since I definitely don't want to include incomplete cycles, but with the Campi from Strixhaven (which I didn't include for the same reason), they can cover all 10 color combinations I think I prefer a 5/5 split over the Gainlands, until 1 of the cycles is completed. I actually don't know which I would prefer, if I could choose.
I actually don't hate the fetchlands (Cabaretti Courtyard and so on), but again incomplete Cycles
Archetype specific: Body Dropper is certainly a more interesting multicolor card than Spike Jester, but so far I've kept Sacrifice as a mono black archetype and not force it into any specific color combination, in order not to railroad drafters. Also Spike Jester has performed incredibly well everytime I saw it.
It's a different set, but it looks like we get another set of Thriving Lands in Commander Legends: Battle for Baldurs Gate:
At some point this makes dual lands obsolete. I really liked the Thriving Lands because they are simply better Evolving Wilds, that can go into any deck while only taking 5 instead of 10 slots, comapred to dual lands.
Backup Agent - Weak to Borderline. While it is not strictly true that this is a weak card, it lacks behind other white 2 mana value creatures. Having Ephemerate utility pushes it up slightly more, the reality is most of the time the counter isn't going to matter.
Boon of Safety - Borderline. Mostly you'd just want God's Willing or Apostle's Blessing. The good thing about shield counters is you can jam them on an earlier turn and still receive the benefit. Let's wait and see how shield counters play before giving a final verdict.
Brokers Initiate - Borderline. This is probably going to be the most interesting one of this cycle because 0/4s for one are really good at blocking non-evasion threats while staying out of Strangle range. The downside of being a 0/4 is negated when you can turn it into a 5/5 threat late game. This card is probably decent, but a little bit too narrow for most cubes.
Buy Your Silence - Weak. Well, it is technically playable; 5 mana is just too much. Especially compared to Oblivion Ring, which these days is on the weaker end of white answers as most of the time you'd prefer a 2 mana answer that deals with creatures only.
Celebrity Fencer - Borderline to Cubeable. Token spam is a meta strategy. This comes down on turn 4 and is a bit small to begin with, but between Battle Screech and Triplicate Spirits this has the potential to be a legitimate threat. Still this has no rules text other than alliance and is still vulnerable to removal (which is the most cliché piece of pauper criticism).
Dapper Shieldmate - Weak to Borderline. The shield counter doesn't balance out the fact that this is a weak card. It only gets +2/+0 during your turn. I'm giving the shield counter the benefit of the doubt, but I don't foresee many people running this.
Gathering Throng - Bad* with the caveat that this is ran in singleton. A vanilla 3/1 for 3 is pretty bad when there are 3/1 for 2 with upside. It goes without saying that this gets pretty good when there are tutorable targets.
Hold for Ransom - Cubeable. Pacifism with a minor downside is still strong card. In control strategies the opponent with more realistically reach 7 mana making this worse, but even then they only get a card out of it, not their creature back. In aggro strategies, this may as well not have any downside. This is just better than Trapped in the Tower which I personally run. So yeah, I think this is a good card. Also you can enchant one of your own creatures to (badly) cycle a card.
Inspiring Overseer - Staple. This along side that green creature we'll get to are probably the two cards of the set everyone is going to be playing from this set. Cloudkin Seer is already a good card. The colourshift to white is a big deal because white has historically been lacking in card draw, and having a decent evasion treat that cantrips goes a long way to patching up one of white's greatest weaknesses: running out of cards. And one extra life to boot never hurt any one.
Kill Shot - Borderline. You'd play it if better answers didn't exist.
Raffine's Guidance - Cubeable. About on par with Sentinel's Eyes because you don't have to worry about running out of resources, but Eye's provides vigilance and costs less mana to bring back. Any cheap white aura that negates auras' typical downside is probably going to be good enough. While I don't see this running away with games — it isn't that much better than Leonin Scimitar — it is going to find a home in white aggro somewhere.
Raffine's Informant - Cubeable. Quite a bit better than Fissure Wizard. I'm not sure how strong looting is in white, but I suspect it's pretty decent. The upside of this card is quite good, you get a 3/2 for 2 and loot a bad card from your hand, but even in the case where you don't do that, you still get a 2/1 and a looted land. I suspect this is going to find a home is quite a few cubes.
Revelation of Power - Borderline. The upside on this is very good, lifelink and flying allow for both strong offensive and defensive plays — a big life point swing can be no joke in a lot of games. Still that's looking at this card optimistically. Realistically, their aren't going to be many creatures with counters running about, so in those cases it is just going to be a bad combat trick. The ceiling for this card is decent, but the floor is low. And most cases it's not going to be reliable either. Now if this was one mana, we'd been talking...
Sky Crier - Bad. Healer's Hawk is good because it is so cheap. 2 mana is probably too expensive. The activated ability is cute, but giving your opponent draw is just not worth it.
Speakeasy Server - Cubeable. 3 power fliers for 5 have been on the narrow end of cubeable. Most cubes out compete them, but there are some cubes where it is the right fit. We've seen this lifegain ability of a few creatures before, although in most cases they have countered themselves, but none of them have had flying except Shepherd of Heroes. Shepherd of Heroes is close in effect. Party is such an annoying mechanic to draft around in pauper cube, but the guaranteed 2 life and 4 toughness make the Shepherd better on an empty board. Speakeasy Server is more for token spammed boards where it can be gaining in the upwards of 4 life, putting you out of burn range and providing a decent flier to actually close out games.
Backstreet Bruiser - Borderline. Getting 2 or more counters down in Pauper isn't going to be all that realistic, because although there are most counter matter cards being printed, the majority of Pauper cube staples don't care about counters. As a road block this is only going to stop some stuff as fliers can still get in and a lot got ground creatures have a decent amount of power. Plus this is in Strangle range. I feel like there is a market for defenders in blue, but this isn't it.
Brokers Veteran - Cubeable. It's a 2/1 in blue with a decent upside for 2. The biggest limiting factor for this will be having another creature in play to use the counter. As early game it's basically Faerie Seer and Cloudfin Raptor as blue's cheap creatures. But a shield counter's utility will begin to shine in the mid game. I think Brokers Veteran is niche but dismissing it as borderline seems like a mistake.
Case the Joint - Bad. Hieroglyphic Illumination is good because you can easily trade it in for a card. And even then it's not that good. Looking at the top of each player's library is cute, but ultimately has does very little to actually impact the game state.
Disdainful Stroke - Borderline. A hard counter for 4 mana value spells is fine, you'd play it if the meta ever started to revolve around expensive spells. But in this timeline isn't not really anything.
Echo Inspector - Cubeable. Connive is good. Looting and getting a +1/+1 counter are fine mechanics on their own. This has the potential to be a 4 mana 3/4 flier that loots on etb, and that is a realistic proposition. It passes the Azure Drake test with flying colours and the Phantom Monster test. I have been impressed with the connive creatures and I am probably going to test all the good ones out.
Expendable Lackey - Bad to Borderline. I was going to say this is a bad card, but then I remembered that it can be milled away and still do something. The base body is bad and it is no Doomed Traveler because you have to pay mana to get the token. There are plenty of more impactful 1 mana creatures. I guess this plays nicely with Casualty 1.
Majestic Metamorphosis - Borderline. 3 mana is too much for a so-so trick. For 2 mana then this would be worth considering, but until then... It does make the creature into an artifact for what it's worth.
Make Disappear - Cubeable. For what it's worth Quench is a fine card and this is Quench with strictly upside. I am going to put this into my cube, but I don't know if other people are. The dampener is on this card a little bit because of Lose Focus being even better than this. Still, I like this more than Syncopate in the 2 mana counter slot.
Obscura Initiate - Borderline. It's not bad in my mind because of the potential lifelink, but it's certainly not good.
Psionic Snoop - Bad. Maybe connive is better on this creature than it looks and maybe flash gives it some subtle edge that I'm not seeing, but this is certainly the worst of the connive cards. It feels like this was going to be 2 mana, but for limited reasons it got bumped up to 3 mana.
Rooftop Nuisance - Cubeable. 3 mana double frosty tap, draw 2 for for the low cost of Casualty 1. This card looks like it plays better than it reads. I think this is likely to be played along side white for the Doomed Travelers of this world. Or maybe green, pitching a Lone Wolf.
Run Out of Town - Borderline. Again, I can't call this bad, but it is overcosted. This is worse than it could be also because the owner of the targeted permanent gets to chose whether this goes top or bottom.
Security Bypass - Borderline. This basically turns your creature into a growing Looter il-Kor, but without the downside of shadow. This seems good on the hexproofers, but otherwise it has the classic aura downside for getting 2-for-1ed. It is similar to Spectral Flight and Aqueous Form — if it can stick it seems very good, but ultimately will draw the ire of too much removal.
Sewer Crocodile - Borderline. I am reserving bad for actually bad cards today, but this is not good. 6 mana is just too much to pay for something that doesn't Dinrova Horror. In saying that 6 toughness is a healthy amount and being able to attack unblockably for four mana will end games, but paying 4 mana to do so might be a bit steep.
Witness Protection - Cubeable. 1 mana is cheap, and actual creature removal is rare for blue. Turning a problematic creature into a Legitimate Businessperson is great palliative solution. It deals with the symptom: a problematic creature; but doesn't deal with the cause: there is still a creature body there.
Corrupt Court Official - Borderline. We've seen a few variations of this card and this doesn't really have much differentiating it from the pack. The main downside of this compared to Elderfang Disciple is Court Offical cannot be mutated onto. Of course there is also Virus Beetle which differentiates itself by being an artifact. The main problem with these creatures is that there isn't enough to do with the bodies in cube. 1/1s just don't make the biggest impact on board.
Crooked Custodian - Borderline. I wouldn't fault anyone for playing this, but compared to black's other 2 mana creatures this isn't going to get there. Compared to say Gluttonous Slug, this seems a the body isn't anything to write home about and it can't block the turn it comes down whereas the Slug is going to grow uncontrollably. A 3/2 body on a 2 mana creature isn't that impressive now.
Cutthroat Contender - Borderline. A vanilla 2/1 would be cubeable. Paying life to get the second point of life just isn't worth the stats. Sure it's a fine card when you are ahead, but in a race it is going to slow you down a lot paying life and also without the life cost this is just a vanilla 1/1.
Deal Gone Bad - Bad. 4 mana is simply too much for -3/-3. The mill flavourtext doesn't make up for the overcosted nature of this spell.
Demon's Due - Borderline. This sneaks into borderline because its instant. Even so 4 mana and 2 life is a lot to pay for scry 2 and draw 2. Read the Bones is good because 3 mana means it can come out as soon as turn 3, or you actually have left over mana to cast what you drew.
Dig Up the Body - Borderline. Causality seems deceptively good because you are getting essentially double the effect of whatever is written on the card. I think if there where better dedicated mill decks in Pauper cube this would be pretty good. I like this card's synergy with Gurmag Angler. Still you have to go out of your way to create fodder to use for the cost of Dig Up the Body.
Extract the Truth - Cubeable. This is the first good piece of dedicated enchantment hate in black outside of Feed the Swarm. This might not be played in everyone's main deck, but it definitely paves the way for more good enchantments to get printed as 4 colours now have answers available. Still there isn't too much outside of Flood, Pestilence and Armadillo Cloak on a hexproofer that specifically need this to deal with it. And basically all of whites removal. Doubling up as hand hate is pretty nifty too, so this shouldn't be a dead card.
Fake Your Own Death - Cubeable. So-so trick, but you get a treasure, so it's probably fine. Still maybe you play Undying Malice over this? It is an open question how useful the treasure is going to be.
Girder Goons - Cubeable. This card blitzed in in fine. Cast normally is fine. Having the flexibility to do either is better. It seems like it will find a home in a top end of a deck. The rouge token means that you get a lasting something out out blitzing and don't forget the card draw.
Incriminate - Borderline. It is worse that Diabolic Edict because you can't pop off a single creature, it has to have a friend. This gets better when there are more tokens and cheap bodies gumming up the board. I could definitely see a future where the meta shifts and this is cubeable.
Join the Maestros - Borderline. 5 mana is a lot and you have to sacrifice something with at least 2 power. Maybe this is a bit better than it looks — casualty is a bit difficult to evaluate at a glance. If there is good fodder for this then 2 big bodies is probably good enough for 5 mana. I just am not sure that there will be too many disposable 2 power or greater creatures.
Maestros Initiate - Borderline. The activated ability is a lot on this card. And the body isn't that good either. 1 toughness is a big red flag. Maybe there are control decks that just want the body for chumping purposes. Late game the mana sink will win you the game eventually so it's probably not that bad. (Oh wait I just read the card. It's bad.)
Midnight Assassin - Borderline. Flying and deathtouch means it will trade for basically anything, but that's about all it will do.
Murder - Cubeable. This is the very definition of cubeable. It does exactly what is says on the tin. The 2 mana spells edge it out in most cubes, still no one will fault you for paying Murder.
Revel Ruiner - Cubeable. Connive is pretty good, and this is one of the good connive creatures. It basically is a 4/2 menace for 4 mana which loots you a card. Sure sometimes it is a 3/1, but that's because you got rid of a useless land.
Summary: Extract the Truth is a good direction black is taking, but I feel will mostly be relegated to sideboards. Fake Your Own Death could be worse than I think, but I'm giving it the benefit of the doubt for the treasure. Girder Goons seems like a fine top end. Murder is good and Revel Ruiner is also pretty strong. Other than that, there are a bunch of ok borderline cards that I wouldn't fault anyone for trying out.
Private Mod Note
Rollback Post to RevisionRollBack
There's no word in the goblin language for "strategy." Then again, there's no word in the goblin language for "word."
An quick update after playing the set for a while now: Inspiring Overseer and Jewel Thief are obviously just as broken as they looked at first sight. What a surprise.
Overperformers: Mayhem Patrol: I had my eyes pinned on this from the beginning and it definitely lived up to what I was expecting and even overperforming. A 2/2 Menace is very decent on it's own and the ability to Cycle it on turn 5+ is really really nice. Also the ability to give one of your 2/Xs or 3/Xs that 1 additional point of power out of nowhere, so that they can attack into a slightly bigger blocker "for free" is really useful. I think it's just plain wrong to not have this card in your cube. I would even say it qualifies as a staple among red 2 drops.
Girder Goons: I expected nothing and was pleasantly surprised. It's not so much the hard cast mode, that is interesing here, but the 4/4 haste for 4, that your opponent doesn't really want to block, because it replaces itself anyway, so they tend to tank it with their face, which is not always easily possible. I mean you could read it as: 3B Deal 4 damage to your opponent, unless they sacrifice a creature. Create a tapped 2/2 Zombie. Draw a card. The hard cast mode can obviously also be viable in some spots. Not saying you have to cube this, but it's certainly a consideration.
Plasma Jockey: Kind of similar to Goblin Heelcutter, expect that your opponent doesn't want to block ths. Even if your opponent puts 2/2s in front of this, you get a 2 for 1 trade. By no means a must play in cube, but definitely surprisingly strong in SNC draft.
Rooftop Nuisance: The name of the card says it all. It's really annoying. Removing 2 blockers from combat for 2 turns can be a huge swing in the middle of the damage race and you don't necessarily have to have a perfect sacrifice target, but simply being able to turn a Man-o'-War or something like that into this effect and also a card of the top can be quite viable. Also not a must play, but a surprisingly good tempo card.