What is the Pauper Deck for You?

Introduction:

Like much of the MTG community I have been swept up by the recent pauper craze mainly pushed by Tolarian Community College. Pauper is a genuinely fantastic format that is well balanced with all of the different types of decks being viable. However, getting into a new format can be extremely overwhelming and I want to counteract that with this article. I will do a brief overview a top tier deck from each category that would all be a fantastic choice for pauper play, both competitive and casual.

Aggro – Mono W Heroic: (jthfortyone 5-0 in Competitive Pauper League)

Creatures:  (16)
Akroan Skyguard
Lagonna-Band Trailblazer
Seeker of the Way
Deftblade Elite
Sacred Cat

Enchantments: (15)
Cartouche of Solidarity
Ethereal Armor
Hyena Umbra
Cho-Manno’s Blessing

Instants: (11)
Defiant Strike
Mutagenic Growth
Emerge Unscathed
Lands: (18)
16 Plains
Secluded Steppe

Sideboard: (15)
Celestial Flare
Cho-Manno’s Blessing
Dust to Dust
Fragmentize
Holy Light
Lifelink
Obsidian Acolyte
Rune of Protection: Red
Rune of Protection: White
Standard Bearer

So, you want to go fast? Well, mono-white heroic is a fantastic deck for you. It uses both enchantments and instants to make a large heroic creature like Lagonna-Band Trailblazer or Akroan Skyguard. While you are doing this you can also gain a bunch of life off seeker of the way and sacred cat and help get these creatures through with Deftblade Elite.

Getting in damage by making one large creature does have its issues, with bounce and removal being heavily represented in the metagame you need ways to counteract them. These come in the form of protection spells like Emerge Unscathed and Cho Manno’s Blessing. Also, Hyena Umbra both makes your creature huge and offers a form of protection. Much like Bogles you load up one creature with a number of auras and so Ethereal Armor can get really out of hand. Cartouche of Solidarity may look like a poor card but it has a hidden purpose. If you only have one creature that you are making massive it helps you get around edict effects out of control decks.

To round out the deck you have two playsets of instant speed combat tricks, Mutagenic Growth and Defiant Strike. This is an aggro deck so you run a low land count with 16 Plains and 2 Secluded Steppe to prevent flooding.

Pauper is extremely diverse and your sideboard should hugely depend on the metagame that you play in. Lifelink, Fragmentise and some amount of Rune of Protections seem like auto-includes but other than that your sideboard is very customizable.

I think that Mono White Heroic balances consistency with power very well and is in my opinion currently the best aggro deck in the format. If you want to have a consistently good deck which can be extremely explosive and will almost never fall flat on its face then Mono White Heroic could be a great choice.

 

Midrange – Kuldotha Boros:  (Zen -Untap.in Pauper League Winner)

Creatures:  (15)
Glint Hawk
Thraben Inspector
Kor Skyfisher
Palace Sentinels

Instants & Sorceries:  (12)
Lightning Bolt
Galvanic Blast
Battle Screech
Firebolt

Enchantments:  (3)
Journey to Nowhere

Artifacts:  (8)
Alchemist's Vial
Prophetic Prism
Lands:  (22)
Ancient Den
Great Furnace
Boros Garrison
Radiant Fountain
Wind-Scarred Crag
Secluded Steppe
Forgotten Cave

Sideboard: (15)
Pyroblast
Electrickery
Relic of Progenitus
Prismatic Strand
Gorilla Shaman
Standard Bearer
Enlightened Ascetic

Boros Monarch is a deck of three parts: removal, card draw, and land. However, since your card draw engine is based around creatures and your removal is mostly burn, you can surprise your opponent by killing them in one massive swing with your creatures and finishing them with burn. Of course, this won’t happen every game; sometimes you’ll just chip and chip until they’re dead on board but bearing in mind this alpha strike strategy will help you play the deck more effectively.

Boros draws more cards than many control decks owing to its signature four-drop, Palace Sentinels. Becoming the monarch allows you to draw an extra card on your end step, allowing you to trade one for one with your opponent and come out on top of the exchange.  The only downside is that if you ever take combat damage, your opponent takes the throne, but you can steal the crown back with your flyers, and your opponent will have a hard time getting a threat to stick due to all your removal.

Your monarchy, while powerful, isn’t sacred. Boarding out the clunky four drop against aggressive decks that can overload your removal and blockers is often a smart choice, and your other card-advantage engine is just as potent. Prophetic Prism and Alchemist’s Vial draw a card upon hitting the table, which they’ll do a fair few times owing to Glint Hawk and Kor Skyfisher allowing you to pick them up again. Kor Skyfisher can even scoop up Thraben Inspector to find yourself another clue. But not even this is sacred. Against the few decks that can go over the top of your card draw, you’ll often pick up lands with these undercosted fliers and get frisky, and against burn decks, Kor Skyfisher can pick up Radiant Fountain to give you more incidental life gain.

The closest comparison to Boros is something like the classic Jund in Modern, an attrition-based deck that builds card advantage with two and four-drop creatures, controlling the board while chipping away at opposing life totals, and lastly using utility lands to give the deck a little extra gas. Monarch is also reminiscent of 4C Control in Legacy, a grindy deck saturated with some of the most efficient spells in the format and drowning in card draw. Monarch shares its grind with 4C Control with none of the blue. If you like grindy fair magic but don’t like unintentional draws, Boros Monarch might be your thing.

 

Control – 5 Color Murasa Tron: (jsiri84 6-0 pauper challenge)

Creatures:  (6)
Mnemonic Wall
Mulldrifter

Instants & Sorceries: (25)
Impulse
Lightning Bolt
Compulsive Research
Condescend
Crop Rotation
Doom Blade
Electrickery
Flame Slash
Ghostly Flicker
Lightning Axe
Mystical Teachings
Prohibit
Pulse of Murasa
Remove Soul
Rolling Thunder
Terminate
Capsize

Artifacts:  (6)
Prophetic Prism
Expedition Map
Serrated Arrows
Lands: (23)
Urza’s Mine
Urza’s Power Plant
Urza’s Tower
Swiftwater Cliffs
Shimmering Grotto
Dismal Backwater
Haunted Fengraf
Izzet Guildgate

Sideboard:  (15)
Coalition Honor Guard
Dinrova Horror
Dispel
Exclude
Flame Slash
Hydroblast
Magma Spray
Pulse of Murasa
Pyroblast
Serrated Arrows
Stonehorn Dignitary
Thorn of the Black Rose
Ulamog’s Crusher

Frankly, I don’t know where to start. Using the most powerful colorless-producing lands in magic’s history and jamming them into a 5 color deck may seem, well, insane. However, with the use of prophetic prism and shimmering grotto you can filter your wealth of colorless mana into whatever you want to be able to cast some of the best cards the common rarity level has to offer. You can play a lot of great narrow cards which you can find with Mystical Teachings and recycle with both Mnemonic Wall and Pulse of Murasa. You do need to get to the late game though and you do so with a lot of early interaction, namely Terminate, Lightning Bolt, Flame Slash, Electrickery, Prohibit and Condescend. Combining creatures with enter the battlefield effects and ghostly flicker allows you to gain card advantage with Ghostly Flicker. Relying on drawing your three Tron land ‘Au natural’ is a bit optimistic so finding them with card draw in Mulldrifter and Impulse, tutoring them up with Expedition Map or Crop Rotation. Now onto the boring part. Winning. The main way to close out the game is by casting Lightning Axe quite a few times with your recursion cards to eventually whittle down their life total. You also have Lightning Bolts to fill this role if your opponent somehow deals with your Lightning Axe.

The sideboard has a number more creatures with game warping enter the battlefield effects like Dinrova Horror, Thorn of the Black Rose, and Stonehorn Dignitary. You get an alternative win condition in Ulamog’s Crusher; Coalition Honor Guard to distract against control decks and a massive amount more narrow interaction cards like Pyroblast, Magma Spray, Hydroblast, Dispel and more. This deck is massively customizable depending on your local metagame as you are playing one copy of lots of niche cards. For example, if everyone seems to be playing tortured existence or delve then you could slot in a crypt incursion into the main deck.

Overall, if you think you are the next Gabe Nassif and want to pilot a complicated control deck with lots of subtle sequencing and decision making and a card for every matchup then you might just want to sleeve up (or trade some tix for) 5 Color Murasa Tron. Also, note that there are a couple of other variants of this deck in both Dinrova Tron and Stonehorn Dignitary to lock your opponents out but Murasa Tron is currently the most represented version of the deck.

 

Combo – Inside Out Combo: (JessNES 6-0 Pauper challenge)

Creatures:  (7)
Tireless Tribe
Augur of Bolas

Instants & Sorceries: (35)
Brainstorm
Circular Logic
Daze
Dispel
Dizzy Spell
Gigadrowse
Gitaxian Probe
Gush
Inside Out
Ponder
Preordain
Repeal
Shadow Rift
Lands: (18)
Evolving Wilds
Ash Barrens
10 Island
Plains

Sideboard: (15)
Deep Analysis
Dispel
Hydroblast
Journey to Nowhere
Piracy Charm
Serrated Arrows
Spire Golem
Stormbound Geist

If you were to say that Inside Out was the most explosive decks in pauper, there would not be many players who would argue against you. The combo works by casting Inside Out on Tireless Tribe to switch its power and toughness and discard a lot of your hand to give it about 21 power. Outside of this, you have efficient blue card draw and tutors to your combo pieces and ways to protect your combo by countering interaction and bypassing blockers.

To draw cards you have BrainstormPonder, Preordain, and Gush, with Ash Barrens and Evolving Wilds to shuffle. These draw spells are amongst the most powerful cards in the whole of Magic, being staples in formats like legacy, and this deck utilizes that extremely well. You also have Dizzy Spell to tutor up the Tireless Tribe. When it comes to protecting the combo you can discard Circular Logic to Tireless Tribe to get a one mana counterspell while going off. Dispel, counters almost anything that interacts with you while you are comboing and Daze works well when you are trying to win while choked on mana. Gitaxian Probe lets you see if going off is safe when you feel like you are holding a lack of interaction. Repeal, Gigadrowse, and Shadow Rift let you avoid blockers. The fact that you need to keep five cards to discard to Tireless Tribe, making Shadow Rift and Repeal desirable as they do not put you down cards.

The sideboard has some alternate win conditions in Stormbound Geist and Spire Golem if you feel like you opponent’s deck matches up well against the combo. Serrated Arrows is quite a popular pauper sideboard card allowing you to gun down any small creatures such as elves. Journey to Nowhere helps if your opponent has some key creatures you need to remove. More interaction against people trying to stop your combo comes in the form of Dispel and Hydroblast. Deep Analysis lets you dig out of a losing position and Piracy Charm is just a very versatile sideboard option.

I myself am a huge fan of combo decks and this is likely the best one in pauper, being able to kill as early as turn two. I think the main merit of this combo over others like blitz and elves is that it is in blue and therefore has all the best card draw and counterspells to deal with interaction. If you are looking for an oops I win strategy with startling consistency and power then look no further than Inside Out combo.

Tempo – Izzet Delver: (EightSixEightSix 6-0 Pauper challenge)

Creatures: (20)
Delver of Secrets
Faerie Miscreant
Ninja of the Deep Hours
Spellstutter Sprite
Augur of Bolas

Instants & Sorceries: (22)
Ponder
Counterspell
Preordain
Skred
Lightning Bolt
Gush
Brainstorm
Vapor Snag
Lands:  (18)
Evolving Wilds
Ash Barrens
Snow-covered Island
Snow-covered Mountain

Sideboard: (15)
Hydroblast
Pyroblast
Electrickery
Stormbound Geist
Swirling Sandstorm
Vapor Snag
Relic of Progenitus

I think most players would agree that I likely saved the best for last but I think that this is why I love pauper so much. Both Izzet Delver and Mono-Blue Delver take up less than 20% of the metagame combined. So a deck that many are complaining about for being too powerful you will play an average of once per league. While Standard is very diverse right now it has not been able to maintain this consistently and pauper has, one of the many reasons I think it is a fantastic format.

In this section I will be talking about the Izzet Delver version but please do not there is also a mono-blue strategy which is basically the same with better mana but worse on board interaction.Tangent aside, this deck is your classic tempo deck trying to stick a threat and close out the game by controlling your opponent. All of the creatures outside of Delver of Secrets also draw you cards or are counterspells: Augur of Bolas, Spellstutter Sprite, Faerie Miscreant , and Ninja of the Deep Hours.

So you have your tempo creature spread and now what do you do? Unfortunately, this question does not have a complicated answer that might make me sound smart – you just jam all the best counters, removal and card draw into your deck and there you have it, the best deck in the format. Outside of the creatures, you might as well be playing legacy with: Gush, Preordain, Ponder, Counterspell , and Lightning Bolt to name just a few. You might be thinking this list just has snow covered lands for the artwork and style points, but you would be wrong as the red splashes include Skred which you may know from modern as an awesome creature removal spell and is one of the few ways that Izzet can deal with resolved big creatures like Gurmag Angler.

The sideboard is where you get another big payoff for splashing red. Pyroblast is incredible in the mirror or against control decks at both countering and removing threats. Electrickery puts a rather downtrodden face on any elves player and is also great against rogue token decks. Swirling Sandstorm is one of the few board wipes you’ll have access to in pauper and works well against any go wide opponent. Water does beat fire an Hydroblast is a must include against almost any red deck in the format. Stormbound Geist provides a threat that is very hard to interact with and Vapor Snag can give you a tempo advantage and also has ruined many a blitz player’s days.

Delver has been considered the deck to beat for a long time and is the best ‘play from ahead’ deck in pauper. Some players are calling for a blue ban like Gush but I really don’t think this is necessary. If you want to beat Delver you certainly can tailor your deck against it and also there is no one card ban that would really do much to the deck. It has such a wealth of card draw spells, I think Ponder becoming Serum Visions or something along these lines does not hurt the deck massively. There is no doubt that this is the deck with the highest concentration of busted blue cards in pauper and if you are into that kind of thing (not many aren’t) then you might want to consider jumping on the bandwagon.

Honorable Mentions – Affinity, Elves and UB Control:

Above is what I think is the best deck in each traditional category but there are a few decks that just got beat out and I don’t think this article would be a fair representation of the pauper metagame without at least mentioning them. In this section, I will give a sample list and a brief overview of what the deck does without going into too much depth.

 

Affinity: (bkm 5-0 Competetive Pauper League)

Creatures: (18)
Atog
Carapace Forger
Frogmite
Myr enforcer
Gearseeker Serpent

Instants & Sorceries: (12)
Galvanic Blast
Thoughtcast
Metallic Rebuke
Fling
Temur Battle Rage

Artifacts:  (14)
Springleaf Drum
Chromatic Star
Flayer Husk
Prophetic Prism
Lands:  (16)
Darksteel Citadel
Seat of the Synod
Tree of Tales
Great Furnace

Sideboard:  (15)
Krark-Clan Shaman
Dispel
Hydroblast
Relic of Progenitus
Pyroblast
Relic of Progenitus
Feed the Clan

You may know about affinity in modern – an artifact based deck that makes massive creatures very early on in the game. The pauper deck does a similar thing using the artifact land cycle and low costed artifacts to break the ‘affinity for artifacts’ mechanic, casting cards like Myr Enforcer and Gearseeker Serpent as early as turn two. However, despite this line of play being powerful, this is not the deck’s primary strategy. What you really want to do is make an incredibly huge Atog to one shot your opponent. You may think that you can just chump block but this is why the deck uses Galvanic Blast to get rid of blockers, Fling to ignore them and Temur Battle Rage to smash through anything that tries to stop the crazy big alien.

Affinity is a very powerful linear strategy in pauper but will likely never be the top deck as it can be hated out with some great sideboard cards: Ancient Grudge, Gorilla Shaman and Smash to Smithereens to name just a few. If you like artifacts and your local meta is running low on sideboard cards to stop you then affinity might just be a great choice. If you think this is the deck for you LSV recently did a video with it on the Channel Fireball youtube channel and I’m sure he can show you how to pilot this far better than I ever could!

 

Elves: (ATMmachien50 5-0 Competetive Pauper League)

Creatures: (42)
Elvish Vanguard
Elvish Visionary
Lys Alana Huntmaster
Nettle Sentinel
Quirion Ranger
Timberwatch Elf
Wellwisher
Priest of Titania
Fyndhorn Elves
Llanowar Elves
Birchlore Rangers
Elvish Mystic

Instants & Sorceries: (4)
Lead the Stampede

Artifacts:  (1)
Viridian Longbow
Lands: (18)
18 Forest

Sideboard: (15)
Magnify
Natural State
Penumbra Spider
Luminescent Rain
Relic of Progenitus
Scattershot Archer
Viridian Longbow

If you are familiar with modern elves this deck might not be quite as confusing but it is pretty crazy! You want to flood the board with elves most of which will give you extra mana in the early turns. Once you have flooded the board you have three main payoffs: Timberwatch Elf, Wellwisher, and Priest of Titania. Also, you have Elvish Vanguard and Lys Alana Huntmaster to massively increase your incentive to drop your elves. This deck can run out of gas very quickly which is why you have the 4 Lead the Stampede and why some decks even splash blue for Distant Melody.

Much like Affinity Elves is very explosive and powerful but can easily be hated out by sideboard or in some case even main deck cards. Anything that deals one damage for a cheap cost or mass removals like Electrickery, Gut Shot, and Evincar’s Justice.

UB Teachings Control: (My Deck!)

Creatures:  (8)
Mulldrifter
Chittering Rats

Instants & Sorceries:  (26)
Counterspell
Preordain
Accumulated Knowledge
Mystical Teachings
Disfigure
Diabolic Edict
Evincar's Justice
Doom Blade
Echoing Decay
Crypt Incursion
Ghostly Flicker
Capsize

Artifacts: (2)
Pristine Talisman

Enchantments:  (1)
Curse of the Bloody Tome
Lands: (23)
Dismal backwater
Dimir Aqueduct
Radiant Fountain
Barren Moor
Remote Isle
Bojuka Bog
Island
Swamp

This is one of the pauper decks that I own – both in paper and online. I managed to go 5-0 about a month ago with a similar list and also went 3-0 in the biggest ever pauper event at GP London. This combines a powerful Mystical Teachings engine with good early interaction. You can also Ghostly Flicker both Chittering Rats and Mulldrifter to get insane value. You eventually win the game by outracing your opponent with Evincar’s Justice and Pristine Talisman or just by eventually grinding them out with Curse of the Bloody Tome or just beating down with bears.

This deck is really great in my opinion but people can go under it. The delver decks are not a favorable matchup but you can basically keep up with almost anything else. If you are a bad person and like making your opponent miserable then teachings is for you!

Conclusion:

That concludes this pauper article and I hope you all enjoyed. I think pauper is a fantastic format and there is a deck for every single player in here. Bear in mind that this is a tiny snapshot of the possibilities in pauper. Brewing is one of the most fun parts of this format and with all the cards being common building a bad deck does not cost you much. If you want to see one of my brews be sure to check out my mono red blitz primer on Reddit – a deck that can kill as early as turn two. I also wanted to thank zentheglomper for helping me with the Boros Monarch section. Be sure to keep your eyes on Reddit /r/spikes for more articles from me, /u/MTGMarmot, or grab a game of Pauper with me on the UOL Discord. This is MTGMarmot signing out.

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