A Beginner's Guide to Pauper Archetypes Part 1
Join Mark as he travels through the current Pauper meta and gives you a snapshot of a few of the hot decks right now. From Delver to Control to straight Creature-based Aggro, He's got the lowdown!
The Pauper format is vast with approximately 6500 available cards in the format. That's a lot of cards and so I thought it might be helpful to give you some direction by providing insight on some of the most popular decks.
There are many playable decks in Pauper and while, previously, paper pauper events were mostly local, we now have a high-profile event to use alongside MTGO events, which, until these tournaments, has been the primary way for determining Pauper's "meta."
Recently, the first Pauper MCQ took place with 186 entrants. This is insanely large for a paper Pauper event so along with popular online archetypes, we will address some that made Top 8 at this event.
Any article about Pauper archetypes needs to address the elephant in the room - Delver decks. Delver of Secrets / Insectile Aberration is, by far, the most played archetype and while you can have many different builds, the basic principal remains the same.
This is William Yoder's deck from the Mythic Championship Qualifier Los Angeles Top Eight. It's a great example of what, right now, is possibly the best deck in the whole format.
|1Ash Barrens||4Delver of Secrets / Insectile Aberration||4Brainstorm|
|3Evolving Wilds||4Augur of Bolas||1Disfigure|
|8Snow-Covered Island||1Stormbound Geist||3Gitaxian Probe|
|2Snow-Covered Swamp||4Gurmag Angler||4Preordain|
|3Terramorphic Expanse||1Spell Pierce|
|2Hydroblast||2Relic of Progenitus||1Curse of Chains|
Much like its legacy counterparts, delver decks in Pauper rely on sticking a game-ending threat, oftentimes the namesake Delver of Secrets, and using cheap interaction and powerful blue card selection to ensure that you can answer any answers/threats your opponent might put forward until your threat can close the game. These decks tend to heavily emphasize cheap spells and aggressive games and, for many magic players, are the quintessential example of "Tempo" in Magic. Gurmag Angler adds a powerful alternative to Delver and since your cards are so cheap and you draw so many, getting the Angler into play in the first few turns should be easy.
Foil and Gush are perhaps the cards that created this specific version of Delver. Before Foil was downshifted to common in Ultimate Masters, Delver decks tended to be mono-blue or U/R. Mono Blue delver could play a faster more aggressive strategy but had fewer answers outside of counterspells and would fall behind if the opponent could resolve any major threats. U/R ran snow lands, Lightning Bolt, and Skred which provided answers for threats that made it on the board but slowed down the tempo plan Delver of Secrets relies on. Foil changed this equation by giving Delver decks a free counterspell, meaning they could play much faster without worrying about tapping down and losing when your opponent plays a threat. Gush provided the islands and card draw Foil needs to feed its massive card disadvantage. The result is a very, very fast Delver deck for Pauper that doesn't sacrifice the crucial interaction it needs to stay on top.
Tempo decks, because of the tight line they walk between aggression and control are sometimes quite complicated to play but are very rewarding to play once you have the experience. If you decide Delver is your style, then be prepared to face a lot of mirrors, as Delver archetypes are considered by many the de facto best archetype in Pauper.
Well I had an easy choice for which decklist to use as Max Forlibi took his build all the way to a first-place finish and will be going to Mythic Championship London.
|3Crumbling Vestige||4Gladecover Scout||3Commune with the Gods|
|15Forest||4Slippery Bogle||4Abundant Growth|
|1Silhana Ledgewalker||1Cartouche of Solidarity|
|2Heliod's Pilgrim||4Ethereal Armor|
|2Cartouche of Strength|
|2Dispel||2Gorilla Shaman||2Gut Shot|
|1Lifelink||2Mutagenic Growth||1Dawn Charm|
|3Flaring Pain||1Ray of Revelation||1Silhana Ledgewalker|
The deck uses creatures with Hexproof and multiple aura enchantments to quickly beat down an opponent. multiple enchantments to batter down an opponent.
Slippery Bogle is the key card and where the deck gets its name. To go with the Bogle, there are many different enchantments used to make the creature bigger. My personal favorite is Armadillo Cloak. Removing a Bogle is quite the challenge and the most common way is to make the Bogles player sacrifice it with cards like Diabolic Edict. Amonkhet's Cartouche of Solidarity is, therefore, a vital addition as, on top of providing a buff, it provides a soldier that serves nicely as sacrificial fodder.
Bogles was one of the first decks I ever played in the format and gets a personal recommendation as a deck that's great to pick up and play.
Burn decks seem to exist in every format and as you add cards to the available card pool, Burn tends to gain some overall power. Josh Rose made Top Eight at the Mythic Championship Qualifier with this spicy deck.
|18Mountain||4Ghitu Lavarunner||4Chain Lightning|
|4Skewer the Critics|
|4Curse of the Pierced Heart|
|2Keldon Marauders||2Smash to Smithereens||4Molten Rain|
So, the deck runs as many different versions of Lightning Bolt as possible to shoot any threats but predominately send direct damage at the opponent. What I liked about this build is the recent innovations replacing Firebrand Archer with Ghitu Lavarunner to better enable Skewer the Critics.
Burn is a great choice for a new player and one that has stood the test of time.
Tron decks are often at the very least considered in older formats and Pauper is no exception. I wouldn't normally recommend this deck to a new player. But there is one exception. If a player has played Tron decks before, then it might serve as a good starting point. Tron, for the uninitiated, is the trio of Urza's Power Plant, Urza's Tower, and Urza's Mine, which, when assembled, provide a huge mana advantage.
Now, onto the example deck! Jason Ames made Top Eight at the Mythic Championship Qualifier with this.
So how does the deck work? Expedition Map allows the pilot to find the Tron pieces they're missing so they can cast the spells they need.
|1Haunted Fengraf||3Sea Gate Oracle||1Condescend|
|2Remote Isle||4Stonehorn Dignitary||3Moment's Peace|
|3Shimmering Grotto||3Mnemonic Wall||1Prohibit|
|1Tranquil Cove||1Dinrova Horror||2Forbidden Alchemy|
|2Unknown Shores||2Ghostly Flicker|
|4Urza's Mine||2Pulse of Murasa|
|4Urza's Power Plant||2Mystical Teachings|
|4Urza's Tower||4Expedition Map|
|4Hydroblast||4Pyroblast||2Circle of Protection: Blue|
|2Circle of Protection: Red||1Curse of Chains||1Moment's Peace|
The creatures all have utility bringing come into play effects onto your side. They can then be used repeatedly by Ghostly Flicker and Pulse of Murasa based on whether the card is on the battlefield or in the graveyard. The creatures offering an incremental advantage for the pilot until victory is inevitable.
Affinity is a name that strikes fear into many Magic players. It's an aggressive deck that revolves around artifact synergies and creatures that have their cost reduced based on the number of Artifacts in play.
Lollerstank is just one player who has shown the decks worth on MTGO, but here's his take on Affinity in pauper.
|4Ancient Den||4Atog||4Galvanic Blast|
|4Great Furnace||2Auriok Sunchaser||1Gitaxian Probe|
|4Seat of the Synod||3Carapace Forger||1Fling|
|4Tree of Tales||4Frogmite||2Temur Battle Rage|
|1Gearseeker Serpent||2Metallic Rebuke|
|3Hydroblast||3Pyroblast||2Relic of Progenitus|
Slivers Is one of the simplest decks to play and is also great fun.
Ixidor29 played this version in a Magic online league
|4Blossoming Sands||4Plated Sliver||3Vines of Vastwood|
|7Forest||4Sidewinder Sliver||4Lead the Stampede|
|6Plains||4Virulent Sliver||4Journey to Nowhere|
|1Secluded Steppe||4Muscle Sliver|
|1Selesnya Sanctuary||4Predatory Sliver|
|1Tranquil Thicket||1Sentinel Sliver|
|3Hallow||2Relic of Progenitus||2Scattershot Archer|
|2Viridian Longbow||2Young Wolf||2Circle of Protection: Red|
|2Ray of Revelation|
So, the creatures are all Slivers and every Sliver improves all Slivers. So the deck functions by getting a critical mass of Slivers like Muscle Sliver in play, and then beating face with your superpowered creatures. In other formats you have access to board wipe effects to kill all the creatures in play but in Pauper, it's much harder to kill a whole board's worth of creatures at once. To help ensure you can hit your critical mass, Sliver players run Lead the Stampede.
Mono Black Control
Mono Black Control is an archetype that has been popular throughout the history of magic dating back to Necropotence when Standard was known as Type One. Pauper is no different and the deck is always popular but has recently suffered from a changing meta.
bdecker7649 used this version online to go 5-0 in a Pauper League.
|23Swamp||1Crypt Rats||2Vicious Rumors|
|2Thorn of the Black Rose||4Chainer's Edict|
|3Sign in Blood|
|3Read the Bones|
|4Tendrils of Corruption|
|3Duress||2Relic of Progenitus||1Doom Blade|
|2Wrench Mind||4Choking Sands||1Evincar's Justice|
Mono Black Control has many faces and angles of attack so this list is not definitive but is good as it avoids using Oubliette which although a potent card was only ever printed in Arabian Nights and is quite pricey.
Kuldotha Boros is a strange name, originating with Pauper decks using Kuldotha Rebirth. They are always R/W, and although Kuldotha Rebirth's popularity has long since dissipated, the concept of a midrange R/W value deck has never left the Pauper metagame.
Picture: Kuldotha Rebirth
Carvs has consistently gone 5-0 in Pauper leagues and this is one of his winning decks.
|3Ancient Den||4Glint Hawk||1Electrickery|
|1Bojuka Bog||4Thraben Inspector||4Galvanic Blast|
|4Boros Garrison||4Kor Skyfisher||4Lightning Bolt|
|1Forgotten Cave||1Guardian of the Guildpact||3Prismatic Strands|
|3Great Furnace||2Palace Sentinels||1Battle Screech|
|3Radiant Fountain||4Prophetic Prism|
|1Secluded Steppe||2Journey to Nowhere|
|3Wind-Scarred Crag||1Oblivion Ring|
|1Relic of Progenitus||1Circle of Protection: Red||2Leave No Trace|
|3Lone Missionary||1Reaping the Graves|
Perhaps most interesting about this deck is the inclusion of the controversial Battle Screech, which is contested because its only paper printing was at uncommon, but it's a common on MTGO. The strategy for the deck is perhaps best described through the powerful Palace Sentinels. This monarch effect allows the Boros deck to grind out card advantage and stay ahead in the game. The creatures are efficient and used to bounce the cantrips to get more value out of them.
I'd highly recommend this deck as an entry point as it is easy to learn and should give you lots of positive early results.
Oops All Instants
The final deck I'm going to feature is a wild card. Steven Keys made Top Eight of the Mythic Championship Qualifier with his homebrew build.
|3Lonely Sandbar||4Pestermite||4Force Spike|
|4Quicksand||2Sentinels of Glen Elendra||4Accumulated Knowledge|
|1Radiant Fountain||2Spire Golem||4Counterspell|
Every time you think the format is solved, someone will come along with something new to shake things up. I could totally see this deck seeing a ton more play over the coming weeks with the hive mind creating tons of offshoots and new variants of this deck.
The deck itself is a mono blue control with some interesting tempo effects built around faeries like Pestermite and Spellstutter Sprite. It may also become the home for Faerie Duelist from Ravnica Allegiance.
Decks I've Not Featured
The Pauper format is massive with an estimate of over twenty tournament playable decks, and I've barely touched the surface with this summary. There are other decks I could have featured and may well do so in the future which include Poison, Izzet Blitz, Inside Out Combo, Zombies and Familiars though for this article as I was aiming for newer players entering the format, I avoided several of the more complicated decks.
Pauper is a format that is inexpensive to play but with so many options of which deck to play, once you have a deck then you are set for some time and any new cards that are required will only ever be printed at common so easy to acquire.
I hope the article encourages you to the take part in the format going forward and that you find a deck you like.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily Cardmarket.