Bringing Fun Decks to Pauper
- Mark Pinder
Modern Horizons shook up Modern, it shook up Commander, and Pauper was on the receiving end of some spicy new cards as well. The recent banning of Gush, Daze, and Gitaxian Probe helped the metagame diversify. Now we have the breathing space that will allow new members to shine in the house of commons.
Today, I'm going to go through a few new decks that allow us to play with those quirky cards that may not normally see play. The emphasis will be to have fun games and hopefully a winning record at local FNM-level events. I must stress I'm looking at making interesting builds, not looking to break the metagame or just rework staple decks with a few new additions.
I'm looking to use cards that are relatively easy to come by. Where possible, I prioritized cards from recent Standard-legal sets and Modern Horizons. This didn't just help my local playgroup to pick up the format but may be useful to the community as a whole. However, one caveat exists: When Pauper turned into a legitimate format a little while ago, we got an influx of cards that hadn't seen the opportunity to see play until recently. I have found some interesting cards entering the format, so I will be trying to bring new life to my personal collection with some significantly older cards.
This article is going to be very similar to my wife Rachel's wedding preparations, as we're going to do something old, something new, something borrowed, and something blue …
Something Old – Mono-Black
My first memory of playing Magic is opening my Revised intro box which included a couple of tournament packs to start off my collection. I was immediately gripped by the combo of turn one Dark Ritual into Royal Assassin or Hypnotic Specter. Mono-Black Control remains one of my favorite Pauper decks, but it comes at a cost, namely Oubliette.
I wondered whether there was a way to build a mono-black deck, but without the major expense, instead using some more recently printed cards. Disfigure has just been reprinted in Core Set 2020 and Modern Horizons gave us Defile, so we do have a sold removal base. Another card that has found its way into the occasional deck and sideboard is Ob Nixilis's Cruelty and rightly so, as it can exile various threats including Gurmag Angler.
|16Swamp||4Blade Juggler||2Ob Nixilis's Cruelty|
|2Mortuary Mire||4Whisper Agent||2Mob|
|4Bojuka Bog||4Audacious Thief||2Disfigure|
|4Dusk Legion Zealot||4Unearth|
So we have two interesting choices of Blade Juggler and Audacious Thief. Phyrexian Rager has been a staple of the format for years and Dusk Legion Zealot has become an option more recently. Audacious Thief has the chance to provide significant card advantage and Blade Juggler is slightly more aggressive. We also have Whisper Agent whose flash and surveil both come in useful. I was worried about overstocking on 3 drops, but other Mono-Black builds do fine with their Oubliette and Chittering Rats.
Initial testing showed mixed results, until I came across Silumgar Scavenger. It can hold off most flying threats in the format or race past them. Traditional Mono-Black Control in Pauper has Gray Merchant of Asphodel, both to recover some of the lost life and as a win condition. I've used Vampiric Link and Cartouche of Ambition from the sideboard with varied success.
Something New – Red-White Tokens
Bogardan Dragonheart was a card that immediately caught my eye and Martyr's Soul wasn't far behind. My thoughts immediately went to tokens as a way to maximize the potential of both cards. My earlier attempts of utilizing Ashnod's Altar had proved ill-fated because of Electrickery and Shrivel. However, the exposure to board wipes is now much less and rebuilding has become much easier with the faster aggro base.
|4Wind-Scarred Crag||4Segovian Angel||4Raise the Alarm|
|9Snow-Covered Plains||4Martyr's Soul||4Dragon Fodder|
|9Snow-Covered Mountain||4Bogardan Dragonheart||4Hordeling Outburst|
|2Rally the Peasants|
|4Goblin War Party|
The deck still suffers from the occasional mass removal after opponent's sideboard. But it is capable of some bonkers fun stuff, especially with Goblin War Party. The ability to pump your creatures, make more of them, or even do both—depending on the situation—makes this card an all star.
The turning point for this deck came when I encountered a Cavalcade of Calamity deck on MTG Arena. I realized that that card would be so useful here. I went old school at that point and recruited Impact Tremors from Dragons of Tarkir to give the deck greater reach.
Something Borrowed – Demons
Sometimes ideas for decks come from the strangest places. People at my local game store had some interest in Pauper, but it was mainly a few hard core players until the recent legality changes. Now that there are Planeswalker Points on the line, we often get the requisite eight people for an event to be sanctioned. For weeks, one of our regulars, Callan Buckle, had been extoling the virtues of his Shadowborn Apostle Commander deck and its relentless searching up of Demons.
Someone commented that it's a shame that there weren't any common Demons for Pauper. So we used Gatherer to check, and it was looking quite bleak until we saw Lady Orca, a 7/4 common Legendary Demon. Soulcage Fiend may be worth a closer look too. Then we realized we'd have all these Apostles in the graveyard and suddenly Gurmag Angler enters the picture as a back-up finisher thanks to the delve ability. Here's the list courtesy of Callan Buckle and myself:
|4Bloodfell Caves||16Shadowborn Apostle||4Terminate|
|2Rakdos Carnarium||4Soulcage Fiend||4Skred|
|10Snow-Covered Swamp||2Lady Orca||4Night's Whisper|
|6Snow-Covered Mountain||2Gurmag Angler|
Something Blue – Blue Black NinjasWhen I saw the Modern Horizons spoiler, I was delighted to see Ninjas back and the return of the ninjutsu mechanic. Being influenced in my teenage years by American Ninja and Karate Kid, I've always enjoyed a good martial arts film—well actually, a really poor cheesy one will do. So the first deck I wanted to work on was Pauper Ninjas. Dimir was until recently a strong archetype in Pauper, but I wanted to try something different without Delver of Secrets / Insectile Aberration and friends.
|4Dismal Backwater||4Okiba-Gang Shinobi||4Smoke Shroud|
|4Ash Barrens||4Ninja of the Deep Hours||2Soul Manipulation|
|6Snow-Covered Island||4Azra Smokeshaper||2Umezawa's Charm|
|6Snow-Covered Swamp||4Moonblade Shinobi||2Ransack the Lab|
|4Faerie Miscreant||2Diabolic Edict|
The early game consists of 1-mana blue fliers that attack with evasion and thus enable ninjutsu. They also allow you to draw a card or scry again later, when you replay them. Smoke Shroud is saucy card as it can be cheated into play from the graveyard when a Ninja enters via ninjutsu, inflicting greater damage immediately and offering flying evasion going forward.
Initial testing has been fun and results inconsistent. Mob feels a little slow and sometimes a Diabolic Edict left in the graveyard feels underpowered compared to having Chainer's Edict. That being said, I do feel this deck is a work in progress and has the potential to break through.
So there you have some of my thoughts on bringing new decks into the format—and also on bringing new players to the format with the help of some budget options. I'd love to see any suggestions and any decks of your own that you've brewed up.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily Cardmarket.