Potential Pauper Playables in Guilds of Ravnica
Guilds of Ravnica is out and like the majority of Magic the Gathering players, I was looking over the spoilers with interest. However, I was not looking for splashy mythic cards to wreck my bank balance to compete in Standard, I was looking for cool common cards that could become a force in Pauper.
Where to Begin?
Before I run through the cards that I believe will be the key cards of the format, I would like to explain my thought process behind the decisions I have made.
The previous Ravnica sets have provided us with plenty of cards that see play in the Pauper format. In the Izzet Blitz deck, we have Nivix Cyclops from Dragon's Maze and, all the way back to the beginning, we have the famed bounce lands cycle from Ravnica, City of Guilds, which appear in numerous top Pauper decks.
So where will the standout cards will come from?
The first place to examine are the guild mechanics as they are a highly pushed feature of the set and also build around concepts in Limited play. These mechanics are likely where we'll see significant shifts in the dynamics of the current Pauper decks. Historically, cards have come to the fore using newer set mechanics, Gurmag Angler from Fate Reforged became a staple card because of the power of the "Delve" mechanic, rapidly accelerating how quickly the fish can be played.
Convoke is a returning Selesyna mechanic that failed to shake up Pauper previously. I haven't seen any hidden treasures so far in the common slot. It seems weak overall and the best we can hope for is that one day in a future masters set, a key uncommon is downgraded to common.
Mentor represents Boros and. with Boros Aggro already a quick and established archetype, Mentor has some potential. Mentor, in the end though, came up a little short, as most of the better Mentor creatures are at uncommon or higher.
Jump-Start sounds like an interesting mechanic to a packed Izzet arsenal. Additionally, we have the entirety of Magic's online history, so coupled with the Madness mechanic, you've got a combination that brewers will love to try and break. At this time though, I'm not convinced we've any standouts or combo's about to break out despite my enthusiasm for the mechanic.
Undergrowth is the latest feature of the Golgari. The Golgari create great mechanics as Dredge and Scavenge are fun to play with but, at common, they've been slightly limited. Undergrowth does have some nice cards, so we may even have a standout or two lurking in the background.
Surveil is the mechanic from the Dimir. I also think it has the most potential to provide new resources, the potential self mill alone can speed up the casting of the aforementioned Gurmag Angler. Expect to see several Surveil cards in my personal picks for Pauper.
One of the most exciting parts of looking at a set review is to see what's being reprinted. Occasionally, we see rarity shifts along with the reprints. Doom Blade started its life as a common but nowadays Doom Blade or similar cards reside at the uncommon slot for the limited play environment. A few cards though will have a downshift to common e.g. Seeker of the Way though these tend to be a more powered up Masters Set environment. Unfortunately, this time around, there are very few reprints and no significant rarity shifts.
Recent history has brought new cards into the format, leaving Standard but staying in Pauper. Two recent solid additions to the format were Striped Riverwinder from Hour of Devastation which is great early game for cycling card draw, only to be brought back from the graveyard later to be a 5/5 hexproof threat. Gearseeker Serpent is a throwback to affinity of old and can regularly be cast for UU, add that it can be made unblockable starts a very fast clock. It is cards like these which we are looking for, cards that can make a difference and may not see play in the more popular format's like Standard and Modern, this can be more difficult than it looks.
My Top Picks for Success (in no particular order)
My first reaction to this card was that I couldn't really see it being played in Pauper as, while Read the Bones sees play in mono black control, blue has so many excellent card-draw options already in any Dimir based deck. Then, I played in a pre-release and saw how good Surveil was as a mechanic. My opinion has since changed as you set up the card draws very well and can help to accelerate an early delve threat like Sultai Scavenger. Forbidden Alchemy sees play in a couple of Dimir decks, so there is no reason to doubt the potential of this card.
I look at this card and see Nivix Cyclops, which is used in Izzet Blitz. Personally, I see the Nivix Cyclops as slightly better because of its higher toughness. However, if you want a split of threats or extra baseline power, the new cyclops is certainly an option.
I initially thought this card might belong in Dimir due to the hybrid mana costs, but it looks even better in Mono-Black decks. With a double black mana cost for devotion for Grey Merchant of Asphodel and the fact that he's got flash, making him great for trades, while still setting up your draw. I could see him replacing Phyrexian Rager. He doesn't draw you a card immediately, but he still sets up a future draw, doesn't cost you life, has an extra power and flash, and provides two devotion instead of one devotion.
Dimir Informant is an interesting card. On the surface, you already have Auger of Bolas and Sea Gate Oracle mixing it up for the early drops in blue centric control decks. Omenspeaker is a similar card but even with the scrying doesn't make the cut and Dimir Informant looks much closer to Omenspeaker than Augur. However, he's got four toughness to dodge lightning bolts and the Surveil option to fix draw or fill the graveyard.
I can see this fitting in Slippery Bogle style decks as not only does it add to the enchantment count and fix your mana, it also replaces itself.
This is a cheeky card and very similar to one of its predecessors - Doomed Traveller. The trade-off is Lifelink for Flying so it's more of a reach. Thraben Inspector remains the premium white one drop though as Hunted Witness doesn't come close to the inspector's strength.
So, we have an expensive Shrivel but it comes with the added bonus of Surveil 2. I've never been that sold on Shrivel to be fair and while some in the community think this is awesome, I'm less than impressed.
I wasn't that impressed with this card initially at the pre-release as it never seemed to be that big a threat. Then I saw someone had managed to build their deck around it and suddenly it became a nightmare to face. In a format where Tortured Existence is a tier one deck, I can see this card giving many opponent's sleepless nights as even if you get rid of one, it will keep coming back, likely bigger than before.
When I think of flying creatures in Pauper, I think of an Delver of Secrets // Insectile Aberation or Stormbound Geist. So, when I see a 3/4 with the exciting Surveil mechanic, I'm tempted to play it. While it may not be an early play like a Sultai Scavenger, I can see your blue control deck stabilizing and using this as a finisher. Mind you, I said that about Academy Drake and Cloudreader Sphinx too and they haven't seen any significant play.
This card stood out out to me after the pre-release, though admittedly out of self-interest. My two favorite pauper decks are Dimir Delver and Mono-Black Control. I feel, after playing with Guilds of Ravnica, that Surveil is the real deal. I'm interested in building around the mechanic primarily in Mono-Black to help power out Gurmag Angler and Sultai Scavenger. Barrier of Bones will help achieve this and is not only less clunky than Dusk Legion Zealot, it also has real staying power against early threats.
Okay, so it's a counter spell that's costs 2UU. Isn't that just two too many? Counterspell is actually legal, so why pay extra? Well, the ability to shuffle up to four cards from graveyard back into library is very interesting. With all the digging creatures and Mystical Teachings to tutor them back into hand, it may well be worth a slot for the late game.
I do like this card, tapping a creature and the chance to kill another with -2/-4 are both really cool things but even as a staunch Dimir mage, I have issues with what I'd consider cutting to put this in my deck. Maybe I'm being greedy as this is a commons-based format after all. This is one card I would like to prove me wrong.
So, whenever I am reading Pauper forums, someone is really hot on the little 1/1 flyer with lifelink. I just don't get it and I really enjoy playing with life gain effects. I can't really see a deck where it will make an impact but I'm sure people are trying already to build a life gain centric deck or Azorius Flying Men deck. Sure, it can fit in a white weenie and, if protected, be a solid card, but it seems to be a lot of effort for not enough reward.
My Top Five
So, to conclude after reviewing the set my Top Five from the above picks are as follows
5. Devious Cover-Up: This may well just be a sleeper that everyone is down on, but I can't help but feel it will be annoying and frustrating to play against.
4. Rhizome Lurcher: The worry is that better finishers may already exist in the Tortured Existence deck, but I like this guy and maybe it can make a new strategy on its own.
3. Notion Rain: I feel that this could become a prince of a card with a song named after it. Okay, if you weren't around in the nineties, you may not get that reference. Forbidden Alchemy is still used, and I can see Notion Rain finding a home in a graveyard based Dimir deck.
2. Dimir Informant: While the Informant has to displace both Auger of Bolas and Seagate Oracle, I think the extra toughness and Surveil options will be enough for it to see play.
1. Whisper Agent: I think this card will be a card predominately for mono black control, it can be removal, extra devotion and while it doesn't draw a card, it can certainly help fix your draws. Even it blocks and trades, it improves the graveyard count for Delve creatures.
These are my Pauper choices from GOR. Do you agree with them, strongly disagree, or think I've overlooked something completely? Let me know in the comments and thanks for reading!
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily Cardmarket.