Good news everyone! This weekend, Pauper Daily Events will return. For the first time since last November there will be four round Swiss events where only commons are allowed.
Before I get any further I want to extend thanks to Mike Turian and the Magic Online Events Team. They took note that the events were firing and it appears that they followed some suggestions from my last piece on PureMTGO. This is an example of Wizards listening to the player base and should be noted. Once again, thanks Mike!
So back to Pauper. Daily Events are a different animal than the single elimination queues of the past ten months. The metagame of these are geared towards decks that can handle just about anything that they face or can completely ignore large swaths of the metagame. The best performing decks from this style of event include Mono-Black Control, Delver, Burn, and Esper Combo.
The question is then what to play in the Daily Event. The short answer to this query is “whatever you want.” The long version, well…
Pauper is not a format of dominant matchups. The best strategies, for the most part, are fairly even against each other. Certain matchups can be fairly one sided (Burn against Soul Sisters, for example) but that is the exception rather than the rule. The relatively flat power level of commons makes it so that the decks available all tend to pack the same punch unless they are built to optimize certain synergies.
Let’s take two of the most popular, and most successful decks, for our demonstration. Delver Blue and Mono-Black Control have been two of the premier archetypes in Pauper since at least the start of the year. Delver is...well...it is the acme. It runs some of the most powerful stitcher cards ever in Ponder and Preordain. The deck has a solid mana base that facilitates cheap Spire Golems. Perhaps the scariest part of the deck isn’t even the eponymous attacking insect but rather Cloud of Faeries fueling Spellstutter Sprite. Delver is able to answer just about any threat on the stack and with a combination of counters and Snap, any creature after the fact as well.
Delver is heavily reliant on a properly sequenced draw. If cards materialize to the top of the deck incorrectly then instead of brutal aggro-control suppression the deck presents a whole lot of Fugitive Wizards and Flying Men. Delver is also susceptible to removal. Seeing as how removal is rather abundant in the format, the late game of Delver can suffer if an opponent is set up to destroy all monsters.
Mono-Black, as currently played, is all about haymakers. The decks have become less about grinding out advantage with Chittering Rats and is more about landing uppercut after uppercut with Gray Merchant of Asphodel and Corrupt. Facilitated by copious amounts of removal MBC can prolong the game to a point where it can come over the top for victory. The issue here is that it forces the deck to make some concessions towards ostensibly worse options to help fuel the devotion to Swamps. Oubliette is one such card. While once broken so that it was more a Path to Exile than a Journey to Nowhere, this is no longer the case. As is, Oubliette is another sorcery speed three drop in a deck that leans heavily on Chittering Rats - its days in the Bad Moon should be on the decline.
Whereas Delver is great at handling threats on the stack MBC can handle them in play. With the Oxford English Dictionary of removal at its disposal the black mage should have little trouble removing any potential threat. The problem, of course, comes from the control side of the spectrum. Early in formats it is better to present incorrect threats than the wrong answer as a bad threat is still a threat while an improperly selected answer is likely a blank.
Why spend time going into these decks? The represent Level Zero - the foundation of the upcoming metagame. These are two of the most popular and flexible decks. On top of that they don’t have any terrible matchups with other popular choices. This also makes them the decks with the largest target on their backs.
This itself is odd. As I have mentioned these decks are largely fair when it comes to the metagame. What was once called the Rock, they now occupy the same space as Jund - good against everything but great against little. These decks do allow their pilots to outplay adversaries, making them popular choices for players who believe their skill gives them a significant edge. This is another reason why they represent the base level.
Having a game plan against these two decks should be a priority. While they may not represent a majority of lists senig play they will be incredibly popular. The decks that seek to make MBC and Delver a victim can be seen as those occupying Level One.
There are two other popular strategies that occupy an odd space between Level Zero and Level One. While they are played they do not see the same numbers as the aforementioned duo. This makes little sense as both these decks are quite good and are capable of catching unprepared opponents without proper answers.
Burn is consistently one of the better decks available to Pauper. Years of direct damage spells have made it very easy to assemble twenty plus points of damage out of a stack of draft leftovers. The Burn deck is a worse choice than Delver or MBC in a Daily Event due to the chance of seeing life gain randomly appear. That being said my gut says Burn is actually better than it gets credit for since it can appear as just “that stupid Lightning Bolt deck.” Make no mistake - ignoring “Lightning Bolt you” is not something you can afford in the first week of Pauper.
Esper Combo is probably the best deck in Pauper. It is incredibly resilient and has an engine that is tough to disrupt. It also has a solid back up plan in Mulldrifter beatdown. The reason it sees far less play than it should is because it is a click-intense deck. Without sufficient practice the clock becomes the archvillain.
The thing with both Esper Combo and Burn is that they attack the format on their own axes. While many decks are set up to handle the beatdown when it comes attached to a creature, fewer are able to stop the onslaught of damage from instants and sorceries. Similarly most Pauper decks are concerned with keeping their life total high enough to enact their plan, not with keeping their library full of cards.
How am I approaching Week One? My plan is to pick a deck that is at least serviceable against all of the above while also not being dead to the random sick draw from beatdown or Affinity. Atog and Nivix Cyclops both present singular threats that must be answered before they roll a natural twenty on your corpse. This means I would play something with removal.
My first choice would almost definitely be a Mono-Black Control variant. I would shy away from the haymaker version currently seeing play and focus more on a plan to kill as many monsters as possible. I would want to be as threat and disruption dense as possible, with tools to handle the more devoted players. This means playing more creatures and leveraging them into Okiba-Gang Shinobi. This will come at the expense of cards like Gray Merchant of Asphodel and Corrupt. Additionally I will be cutting Oubliette in favor of Unmake, which can do a fine job of handling Guardian of the Guildpact (a fringe player that could see more play in Week One).
Far more of a Rats deck than modern versions of MBC this deck wants to clear a path and nibbling away at a life total. The sideboard allows the deck to hedge it’s removal package. If possible I would want to find a way for some copies of Victim of NIght to find their way main, perhaps over Unmake. What draws me to this build is the redundancy. Chittering Rats is arguably the best black creature in Pauper (seriously, have you ever had it cast against you?) and running seven virtual copies is tops.
Chainer’s Edict is also quite powerful. While some of this is mitigated by being a sorcery it more than covers this investment thanks to to flashback. Chainer’s Edict has the text “target player sacrifices their best creature on turn two and then again five turns later.” While running the full four may not be the best idea (since the card is a tad ponderous) the ability to squeeze in two more edicts can be backbreaking.
Dead Weight is a concession to the abundance of Delver decks as well as the perception that the early days will be fueled with random aggro decks. Geth’s Verdict and Unmake supplement the removal suite while Crypt Rats clean up any messes that get left behind.
Cuombajj Witches helps to fight small creatures and blocks exceptionally well. Phyrexian Rager is just another Good Creature. Okiba-Gang Shinobi is Blightning with buyback - if it connects more than once it is hard for any deck to recover. Gray Merchant of Asphodel and Twisted Abomination both serve as game ending spells. I am especially fond of Twisted Abomination because it is well positioned against other MBC decks which rely on Victim of Night and Tendrils of Corruption to handle opposing monsters. Twisted Abomination would laugh at those cards if it could. But it can’t. It doesn’t have vocal cords. Don’t remind it - it’s sensitive about the subject.
Mono-Black Control is Jund, but this version presents some technology that allows it to out maneuver an expected field. Although, if I get to play Pauper, I really want to have fun. And that means busting out the big guns:
I wrote at length about my pet project here. This list is largely the same and plays very similarly. Dimir Tortured Existence is one of the best tool box decks available in Pauper as it can go and get anything. There are few feelings better in this world than using Grave Scrabbler to get back Mulldrifter, knowing you can set up what comes out to about a ten for one. If you’re looking to having some fun and draw cards, well, you could do far worse.
These are just my thoughts, but my final words are more important:
I don’t care what you play, just that you do. Pauper is back. Let’s make sure it doesn’t go away again.
Keep slingin’ commons-
SpikeBoyM on Magic Online
My Facebook Page
Check out Common Cause on iTunes!
Discuss Pauper on twitter using #mtgpauper