The spoilers simply do not stop! Without wasting too much time, let's just jump into the discussion right now.
Knowledge is Pauper
Following up our very promising analysis of Cartouche of Solidarity came the full reveal of the Cartouche cycle. With their variations in mana cost and effects, it is frankly the case that some of these new auras are more Pauper-worthy than others.
In my estimation Cartouche of Solidarity is the best of the bunch, followed possibly by Cartouche of Zeal (a Hammerhand reprint) and/or the blue Cartouche of Knowledge.
With Knowledge, what we are mostly lacking is an intuitive application for the card in terms of a preexisting strategy or set of creatures. For instance, Nivix Cyclops decks could use this card for additional draw and to get their one-eyed monsters out of Flame Slash and Galvanic Blast range, but the aura itself fails to spark the Cyclops' triggered ability. A 3/3 flying Ninja of the Deep Hours has its appeal in some matchups, but not in others. Cartouche of Knowledge won't even help us flip Delver of Secrets, so its overall chances of seeing play aren't awesome.
Nimble-Blade Khenra is a functional reprint of Sanguinary Mage, which is itself something of a successor to Jeskai Student. While Student never really caught on, I've played against it and it can be very annoying. Khenra and Mage have the advantage of being in a slightly more appropriate color for prowess.
Are these cards promising enough to elevate Mono Red Heroic to playable heights?
This list contains a couple of splits between old cards and their newer functional reprints. The upcoming Cartouche of Zeal and its predecessor Hammerhand team up to forge a full playset that mitigates the effect of Echoing Truth (a card virtually no one plays, but still). Similarly, Nimble-Blade Khenra and Sanguinary Mage combine to bolster the suite of two-drop threats. These attackers in particular have large rear-ends, and along with Frostburn Weird can escape falling victim to a Flame Slash or Galvanic Blast when Mutagenic Growth is on their side.
Sadly Mono Red Heroic faces an uphill battle in terms of being competitive enough to see much Classic Pauper play. It falls somewhere in between Red Deck Wins and Izzet Fiend in that it can create a board presence of angry, hasty attackers and also pump up creatures to a muscular, unwieldy size. However, it doesn't seem to consistently do either of these things better than its contemporaries (at least as far as I can tell).
Mono Red Heroic also can struggle by drawing the wrong mix of creatures, pump spells and lands. The deck can't really afford to be too light on either of the aforementioned non-land categories if it wants to win. It needs to see enough threats to stand up to removal, but not so many that there aren't adequate pump spells getting drawn to make those threats fiercer.
I'm trying to mitigate this somewhat by playing Frostburn Weird as a mana sink when our flooding out nightmare becomes a reality, and by playing Reckless Charge to get us attacking immediately once we topdeck a creature.
This list doesn't exactly thrill me, but it might be something I mess around with once the cards become available to us.
Feast of Burden
I feel like the nearing graveyard-hoser has a lot of competition. Faerie Macabre, Relic of Progenitus and Shred Memory come to mind. The real kicker for me, however, is Nihil Spellbomb. For a single colorless we are already gaining access to a superior effect, and by throwing in an additional B we get the cycling benefit, too!
It won't be a travesty if Scarab Feast sees play, since one of the knocks on graveyard hate like Crypt Incursion is that it diminishes the quality of opening hands. Still, because Relic and Spellbomb can both already cycle, I'm not entirely sure what the upside of running this new instant would be.
That's all the spoilers we have to talk about for now. Fear not, because even more are on their way!
Back to Black Rose
While I have not changed up my list since last time, I'd still like to post it here in order to (hopefully) enrich our overall discussion.
This deck's typical objective is to prolong the game and generate a sustained defense, thereby supporting a game state in which Thorn of the Black Rose makes us the monarch and we comfortably retain that status for the remainder of the duel.
Simply put, things will not always shake out this way. For one thing, the dynamic of certain Pauper matchups will require us to be the aggressor. Decks that get way out of hand as the game goes on (Tron comes to mind) oblige us to mount an offensive as early as we can and continuously pressure our foe from that point on. While our deck is not the absolute best at enacting such a game plan, it can be done.
You'll notice that there are a few “contingency” cards in place for Game One if we do end up needing to duke it out with a more controlling deck. Chief among these is Grim Harvest which can be an absolute nightmare to deal with before sideboards come into play. It functions like a clunkier Evolutionary Leap in that it can exhaust the control player's suite of answers by continually replenishing our threat count.
Going back to our “Plan A,” we possess a number of tools that help us ensure that as the monarch we can avoid taking combat damage, and therefore reap the benefits of seeing an extra card every turn! These tools include cheap, varied removal spells (accounting for everything from hexproof to temporary buffs to undying), creatures that block reasonably well after generating immediate value, a single board sweeper and one heck of a brick wall in Gurmag Angler.
This deck is through-and-through a Kor Skyfisher deck, though it lacks the basic Prophetic Prism-ish function that comes with bouncing a non-creature cantrip that other strategies possess. That has by no means been an issue for me thus far.
Beginning with our land base, Skyfisher can squeeze out an extra mana by bouncing a basic on a turn where we're otherwise missing our land drop. Against Burn we can gain a life by bouncing Scoured Barrens. Most useful of all, we can return Mortuary Mire to our hand and replay it to “resurrect” a creature. If the creature we resurrect happens to be another Kor Skyfisher...well let's just say we can get a bit of a loop going.
Creature-wise we have Phyrexian Ragers and Thraben Inspectors to bounce for additional card-drawing, not to mention Lone Missionary, who when bounced will give Stompy and Burn fits. Missionary is one of the central reasons to play white. He not only offsets the life loss from Night's Whisper, but also seems like a reasonable response to Burning-Tree Emissary plays.
Next up is Thorn of the Black Rose, who can help us reclaim monarch after being bounced. This might pay off in situations where attacking the opponent back ends up not being the greatest of options.
If we need to reset a Dead Weight or Journey to Nowhere that is always an option too. Journey in particular works well after we've exiled a creature token or threat that initially had a ton of buffs attached to it.
It appears I've spent so much time talking about Skyfisher that I've neglected other portions of the deck! It's a fairly straightforward strategy though, favoring a midrange stance and games of attrition/resource exchange more than anything. I'm confident most players can figure out its other interactions without much issue.
Are there any new cards that you have your eye on? Don't hesitate to let us know!
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Bye for now!