Pauper Metagame Overview
- Karol Guzy
Pauper is getting more attention and love from the Wizards of the Coast. Since it's sanctioned, we can see their efforts in updating the banlist more regularly and printing cards that seem to target especially this format. Let's take a look at an interesting metagame, with aggro, control, and combo all represented.
Today, I want to present to you the most important decks of the Pauper metagame — where only cards released as commons are allowed. Let's begin with the tier one, the three pillars of Pauper: Tron, Faeries, and Boros Monarch.
|Tron by mlovbo, Pauper Championship Qualifier|
The king and the bogeyman of the format. It's a big mana/control deck with prison elements and utilizes loops with Mnemonic Wall and Ghostly Flicker (or Ephemerate). It can lock combat steps indefinitely via Stonehorn Dignitary, flicker Mulldrifter to generate card advantage, and some versions end the game with Dinrova Horror bouncing away all your lands together with your last hopes of winning the match. Although it uses the same Urza lands as Modern Tron, the gameplay is very different. Pauper Tron does not have to assemble all its components as soon as possible. It prefers to extend the game as long as it can, and finish things in a very controlled manner.
2. Faeries (U/B & U/R)
|Blue-Black Faeries by cicciogire, Pauper Championship Qualifier|
|Blue-Red Faeries by carvs, Pauper Challenge|
Those two are similar in their gameplay, so I group them together as one of the pillars. Not that long ago, I would call them Skred Delver and Blue-Black Delver. What happened? It's a long, complicated story just like TV soap operas, but I will try to explain it quickly. First of all, Skred Faeries emerged from Blue-Red Delver. It changed the aggro-control style for something more akin to midrange-control. Secondly, after downshifting Cast Down, black received removal that can deal with everything and was able to replace Skred. That started the idea of Blue-Black Faeries. I think the result has a lot more in common with Skred Faeries than Blue-Black Delver. They both want to attack with small evasive creatures and back them up with counterspells/removal. Powerful cantrips like Preordain, Ponder, and Brainstorm make the deck very stable and let us find exactly what we need.
3. Boros (-Based) Monarch
|Mardu Monarch by Ed_Elric, Pauper Challange|
A midrange strategy that turns its creatures' downsides into benefits. The supposed drawbacks of Kor Skyfisher and Glint Hawk make them the core of this unique build. They generate strong, evasive bodies at low cost and return to our hand one of the artifacts that draw a card when they enter the battlefield. Thus, we generate pressure and card advantage at the same time. With this plan and constant draw, it's easy to reduce the opponent's life and end them with a pack of great red removal — Lightning Bolts and Galvanic Blasts, whose metalcraft is easy to activate. This deck is even better in defense. Its cheap removal and strong flying bodies are great to stop an opponent's early aggression. Palace Sentinels allow you to become monarch, and there's Prismatic Strands to defend the throne.
With tier one behind us, I can focus on significant representatives of each main archetype. The format does allow proper aggro, midrange, combo, aggro-control, and even some control decks.
|Jeskai Affinity by PlichoW, Pauper Challenge|
Affinity has around five relevant builds in Pauper. Let's take a look at a fresh one — Jeskai Affinity. It goes more wide than classic Temur Affinity. Carapace Forger and Gearseeker Serpent are variously replaced by Ardent Recruit, Thraben Inspector and/or Auriok Sunchaser. These Human-type creatures make Of One Mind possible in this deck, which basically adds another four copies of Thoughtcast. Constant draw makes it hard to run Jeskai Affinity out of gas. It can end the game in the classic beatdown way. But if this plan fails, just feed artifacts to Atog and Fling it into your opponent's face.
Other aggro decks: Stompy, Bogles, Burn.
|Monoblack Control by aarong, Pauper Challenge|
Okay, let me clarify it right away. People tend to call this control, but for me, MBC shares a lot more in gameplay with midrange strategies than control. The plan is simple: remove everything in your way with powerful removal spells, play creatures, increase your devotion to black, and finish through the combat step or by casting a huge Gray Merchant of Asphodel.
Other midrange decks: Jeskai Midrange, Black-Red Discard, Tortured Existence.
|Wonder Walls by Mathonical, Pauper Challenge|
This is a crazy one. It focuses on generating infinite mana in many ways — for example, Axebane Guardian plus Freed from the Real plus one other defender — and translate it into infinite damage via Bloodrite Invoker. With walls you don't have to worry about early ground aggression, and the deck is filled with card advantage and tutors, so it's easy to assemble the various combo pieces. If something goes wrong, there is Pulse of Murasa and Reaping the Graves at your service. All those ingredients together can provide fast and explosive wins.
Other combo decks: Cycling, Blue-Black Freed.
|BW Pestilence by PR0boszcz, Pauper League|
One of my personal favorites. It uses the synergy between Guardian of the Guildpact and Pestilence. This duo keeps the opponent's board clear from creatures. Pristine Talisman and Radiant Fountain help you to restore your health and to activate Pestilence over and over again. Gain card advantage from Pestilence, become the monarch, or use the recent addition of Bonder's Ornament. Just be sure your opponent's life total is lower than yours, and you can use Pestilence as a Fireball, to burn them down in the late game.
Other control decks: Blue-Black Mystical Teachings, White-Blue Familiars.
|Blue-Black Delver by gbturtle15, Pauper Championship Qualifier|
The deck is not as strong anymore as it was during the Foil/Gush era, but it remains playable and capable of good performances. A member of the Delver deck family, it follows the classic "protect the queen" play pattern. Play Delver/Gurmag Angler early, and defend it with counterspells and pave the way for it with removal till it reduces the opponent's life total to 0. A lot of cantrips, Snuff Out, and Evolving Wilds help to fill the graveyard quickly for the Angler.
Other aggro-control decks: Blue-Red Blitz, other Delver variants.
There are a lot of decks in the environment that are hard to classify and do not fit one particular archetype. The ones I have highlighted are most popular, most competitive, or stand out in other ways. Keep in mind those decks are only a drop in the vast bucket of the diverse Pauper metagame.
The Pauper metagame has slowly been getting better. We got a little bit of attention from Wizards of the Coast for sure, and this gives us hope for improvement. Each archetype has at least one competitive representative in the format. Though the metagame needs a good response versus it's tyrant, Tron. It's definitely been the strongest deck for a long time, without any good counter measures. The problem of Tron is known well in the community. Thanks to its fixing, Tron can easily gather all the best cards from the whole format with no problem at all, like it did with Abrade or Cast Down. A new deck that's favored against it and can keep up with the rest of the metagame would be awesome, but not likely to happen. The Pauper community tried to strike Tron on so many angles, but it always found a response to any attack. I believe Urza's lands will become banned sooner or later.
Some quick hits:
Faeries are going to continue replacing red with black, and the blue-black build with monarch will become more popular. Faeries can defend the monarchy in some matchups, and I think this is the best approach.
Boros Monarch got a new toy in Spare Supplies. It fits the deck plan perfectly, and it might just strengthen the position of the best current midrange deck of Pauper.
Wonder Walls is getting more and more popular. People are beginning to realiize that this deck is not a joke.
Cleansing Wildfire is a lot more frightening for bounceland users than it is to Tron players.
I don't see any potential unban possibilities soon.
Thanks for reading. I hope you enjoyed the article. See you for the next one!
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily Cardmarket.