Pauper on the Horizon
Modern Horizons is here and it's looking like it'll shake up pretty much every format it's in, including one of my personal favorites – Pauper. Pauper has recently been the recipient of rather substantial ban of three cards: Gush, Daze and Gitaxian Probe. This has helped diversify the metagame quite a bit, significantly reducing blue's Stranglehold on the format. With this breathing room, Modern Horizons has an even greater opportunity to shine a light on new decks and cards.
One of the selling points for Modern Horizons was bringing older cards into the Modern era. Obviously, this doesn't matter too much unless they also downshift those cards. We do get some bonus from this, as some cards don't fit their common moniker when it comes to pricing. The increased availability of these cards makes now a great time to pick them up!
Crypt Rats, Battle Screech, Diabolic Edict, Exclude, Firebolt, Barren Moor, Secluded Steppe, Lonely Sandbar, Forgotten Cave, Tranquil Thicket, and the full art Snow Covered Basic lands are my personal picks for these reprints, so get 'em while the getting is good!
You'd normally find the odd downshifted card that can make an impact like Seeker of the Way and Auger of Bolas in Masters sets, but Horizons appears to have not made any significant downshifts, but as the expansion also adds a lot of new commons, this doesn't reflect poorly on the set for Pauper players.
The New Cards
I was floored when I started looking through the full spoiler. I could never fit all the cards that looked interesting in one article and I don't want to write that excessively long article that you won't finish, so I'm only gonna talk about my absolute favorites here. This all being said, please offer your feedback in the comments as to what new commons you think might make their way into our little (but quickly growing) corner of Magic.
I wonder if Answered Prayers can live up to its name? I have a long standing love affair with life gain decks, dating back to the Martyr of Sands and Proclamation of Rebirth combo and the old school Soul Sisters decks in Standard and Modern. Therefore, I'm slightly biased on this one as I think it can find a home, though that home will likely NOT be the Slippery Boggle or Presence of Gond decks. I feel this might help Boros Monarch strategies or a White Weenie build.
Ephemerate has some game, potentially helping the Ghostly Flicker decks running around. The addition of Rebound to the card means you can get some extra flicker value out of it. Flickering on an opponent's turn to blow out their removal and then rebounding at the start of your turn for additional value is pretty amazing with cards like Mulldrifter and Auger of Bolas.
When I first looked at the set, Martyr's Soul totally went over my head. A 3/2 for 3 isn't that impressive after all. Later, I took a look at that Convoke and thought, "okay, so to play this on turn three, you'd need a one drop and either two more one drops or a token generator for a 5/4." Okay, that's usually faster than a speeding Gurmag Angler, but I can't help but feel it's a fragile combo. But when it works, it's likely going to crush the competition.
Settle Beyond Reality
Gavin Verhey from Wizards – take a bow. I'm still only looking at white cards and believe I've found another great card. So, we can get rid of opponent's biggest threat, flicker our best card – or both. I can see this being a staple card in Azorius control shells.
Gulp! Fliers in Pauper don't tend to be this large and usually are around three power and toughness. Chillerpillar is a big investment and will require a snow mana base, but once Monstrous, it's a house as a 5/5 flying. This card could just be seducing me into thinking it's the next big thing though, as Academy Drake, Cloudreader Sphinx and Watcher in the Mists have done in the last year.
Oh my! Ponder, Brainstorm and Preordain all see play in the format and Faerie Seer feels like a slam dunk include in blue tempo decks. My reasoning is simple. You get to Scry 1, guaranteeing a Delver flip if you need it, while also getting an extra flying creature that synergizes with the Pauper all-star Spellstutter Sprite. With Faerie Miscreant and Pestermite both playable as well, could the scourge of Faeries become a force in Pauper.
Black has so much removal in the format with Disfigure and Tragic Slip. But, Defile is definitely going to challenge those kings for their throne. It scales exceptionally into the late game and people are going to want that in their mono-black or heavily black control decks
Premium removal is quite common in Pauper. However, the affordability is another matter. 4B would usually be prohibitive but adding the Convoke mechanic changes the equation. The card reminds me of Murderous Cut, but it's a little harder to set up. In exchange, it does a Slaughter Pact at common - sometimes. We'll have to wait and see if black decks can keep their board around long enough to make this worth running.
The name alone evokes something powerful and while this may not be an actual Umezawa's Jitte in Pauper, it's still quite intriguing. Charm's are inherently flexible spells and all three effects on this card are useable, meaning this card has a decent chance at seeing play.
A lovely card that will demand removal or it can take over the game. Token generation to feed the Bogardan Dragonheart is vast in pauper and the sheer power of the dragon being 4/4 with flying is immense in the format.
Move over Defile, and frankly, move over Black decks, Red is making a play at being the best removal color in Pauper with this one mana instant speed premium removal spell. Sure, you'll need to Delve some cards away to get that rate, but that's easily worth the five damage it deals at Instant speed. This card will see play – no questions asked.
I find Mother Bear to be the standout green card for Pauper. The color as a whole is somewhat weak in this set, but this is an early game Grizzly Bears with some added value in the late game. It seems decent.
Fountain of Ichor
I love Fountain of Ichor. It will help Tron decks splash for their additional colors while providing mana fixing at a reasonable cost. However, the ability to become a 3/3 Dinosaur in a deck brimming with mana feels like a great way to use up surplus mana.
Brewing with Modern Horizons
So, I thought I would round off the article with a deck list. I'm not saying this is for sure going to the next Tier 1 Pauper deck, but it'll use a bunch of the new cards in order to more fully explore their playability in Pauper. I am aiming to maximize the number of new cards I use, so you'll also see a few fringe cards that didn't feature in the main body of the article. But such is the depth of Modern Horizons, with tons of new Pauper standouts.
One of the cards that most interested me when looking through the spoiler was Faerie Seer. As such, I'm looking at a base blue deck concentrating mainly on the Faeries of Pauper. I next need to decide what color to pair it with! I've decided against green and red, as they don't synergize all that well. This leaves me with a choice between Dimir, Azorius or Esper. I ended up settling on Azorius, as it lets me try and utilize some of the new flicker spells for value.
W/U Faeries by Mark P
|4Meandering River||2Faerie Duelist||4Prohibit|
|7Snow-Covered Island||4Faerie Miscreant||4Settle Beyond Reality|
|3Snow-Covered Plains||4Faerie Seer||4Winter's Rest|
I'm using the full on Ephemerate and Settle Beyond Reality recursion options from the Faeries using come into play effects. I've added another non faerie in Mulldrifter for additional card draw.
I've gone creature heavy in this build when traditional blue builds usually run Delver of Secrets / Insectile Aberration and a cantrip package to easily flip it. This is deliberate as I want to explore the viability of some of these new creatures in a vacuum.
I didn't explore a Dimir variant here, but the new Ninja's seem sweet and I'm excited to try a Dimir Ninja deck enabled by the cheap flying Faeries. Martyr's Soul looks like a strong card, but no white creatures make it difficult to enables. As such, I'll have to find another home for it.
I've intentionally left the sideboard empty for now until I see how it plays and where I can add some solid options to improve my matchups.
I have to say this was one of my favorite articles to write as there are so many interesting cards coming into the format. In addition to individual cards that may just improve a current deck, there are some interesting tribal options coming out of the new set. I feel a desire to brew and sleeve up new cards in new decks to see if this is a new avenue for deckbuilding in the format.
Do you have any cards that you think will perform well in Pauper from Modern Horizons? Let me know in the comments!
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily Cardmarket.
Check out our Modern Horizons page if you're interested in picking these up before everyone else catches on!