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By: Guest Contributor, PureMTGO Contributors
May 08 2017 12:00pm
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About a year ago, I wanted to create a deck from the sideboard up. In my estimation, the most powerful sideboard cards in Pauper were all in red and black: Duress, Gorilla Shaman, Pyroblast, and Electrickery. What do these all have in common? One mana, efficient answers to the most common decks and their problem creatures. 

The next step was to build a well-rounded suite of tailored answers and threats. When your goal is to be the midrange, you’re trying to be 55-60% vs. the field. You must acknowledge you can’t be favored against everyone, but if you can be the favorite vs. the best and most popular decks in the field, good enough! At the time of creating the deck, the most dominant decks were all aggressive: Delver, Affinity, and Stompy. So the goal, you will see is to engineer a positive matchup vs. these decks, a fighting chance vs. your weaker matchups, namely blue-based control and burn, and a 50% or better matchup overall vs. the field. 

In this article, I’m going to go over the card inclusions and their purpose. And then in the follow-up article, I will present a sideboard guide versus the current popular decks of the field. 

My Current List: 

The Spells:

Fifteen main deck removal spells, six “draw-two”s, and a quirky discard spell that lets you trade excess lands for their worst cards show you the backbone of the deck’s strategy: aggressively trade resources, and get ahead on cards. As long as you don’t fall too far behind early, you should win. Focus first on keeping their board clear, and match their threats before worrying about developing your own. 75% of the time, you are not the aggro! Don’t play like you are! But the 25% of the time where you need to be, there is a different play pattern and one I will go over as I review the card selections. 

Firebolt: Generic, sorcery speed removal that trades with most one and two drops. If the game goes long, you get to play it twice which is like drawing a card. Also, if you are closer enough to burning them out, both the flashback and the synergy with Thermo-Alchemist helps. 

Flame Slash: Your main deck tech vs. Affinity’s big 4/4s. But the card also trades with most 1 and 2 drops. This card is a liability vs control decks, so side it out accordingly. 

Pillar of Flame: Your Achilles’ heel is Young Wolf. Not only does it blank your Chainer's Edicts and protect their better creatures, but the wolf can eat a removal spell and trigger Hunger of the Howlpack’s morbid effect in the process. Get it gone. Also good against Stormbound Geist, and preventing recursion from the Dimir Flicker and Pulse of Murasa decks. I prefer this over Magma Spray since in your worst matchups, it’s two to the face, triggers Alchemist, and always has a target. 

Lightning Bolt: Versatility keeps it a 4-of. Most of the time you’re just killing a one-drop, same as Flame Slash or Firebolt but that you can spoil tempo or hit their face makes it a 4-of inclusion. 

Chainer's Edict: Not at its best position in the format right now, and if you’d like, cut it to 1 or 2. But that it kills without targeting the creature and doesn’t regard size means you have versatile removal to kill a Kiln Fiend through an Apostle’s Blessing, a Gurmag Angler, a Silhana Ledgewalker, or an Atog, really pulls its weight as a removal spell to diversify your red cards. 

Terminate: Overcosted, but it can do things the others can’t. It can help fight through two Spellstutter Sprites by Terminating the first card and bolting the second with the counter trigger on the stack. It kills Atog, River Boa, Gurmag Angler, Ulamog's Crusher, Dinrova Horror, or any of the infect creatures and all at instant speed, which can help frustrate your opponent if they go for a Flicker or pump effect. 

Night's Whisper: Simple, efficient draw 2. I don’t care that it’s a sorcery. This is the card that allows you to play 2 color midrange whereas Sign In Blood is much more color restrictive. Always side out vs. Burn and feel free to cut a couple copies vs. Stompy. 

Read the Bones: Sometimes you need a specific answer, sometimes you have an open turn to just dig for better cards to improve your board position. This does it all. It’s like the black Foresee, except you trade 2 life and the ability to see two more cards for a more efficient CMC. Always cut it vs. Burn and fast aggro. 

And finally, the least understood card in the deck, 

Raven's Crime: Do you want to know what’s a great feeling? Holding a healthy grip while your opponent is playing off the top. It gives you the perfect information to know you only have to answer their one card instead of a string of counters, pumps, or burn spells. The Crime also combos well with Thermo-Alchemist in those rare games when you are the aggro to attack the control players resources (namely their hand and life total), and it’s one of your few good weapons to combat Burn. You can also pick up lands with Carnarium to pitch more to Crime. Thorn of the Black Rose plus Raven's Crime is Pauper’s best version of Liliana of the Veil

The Creatures: 

Thermo-Alchemist: You need a proactive two-drop in this deck. Otherwise your only turn two-plays are either hopefully to kill something on their side, or if you’re on the play, to draw 2. Alchemist doubles as a cheap blocker vs. a ground assault and an unblockable, vigilant win condition. With 22 spells in the deck mainboard, you’re usually pinging for 2 a turn. 

Chittering Rats: Is there a better feeling then when this card is Time Walk stuck to a 2/2? You go ahead and punish those slow-starts, deny them resources, or just trade for their 2/2 and be up a card. If you’re desperate, side this guy out on the draw vs. Aggro decks. 

Phyrexian Rager: And sometimes you prefer to give yourself one more card instead of denying your opponent a draw. Easier on the mana, trades with those 2/2s and pulls you ahead in a midrange war.

Beetleback Chief: The strength of this card is how few cards can trade for it 1-for-1. A diverse threat and a quality blocker. Other than Evincar's Justice, no single commonly played removal spell does the job to clean up all three of your bodies. The extra 1/1s can also protect your win conditions, whether they be Alchemists or your lone Gurmag Angler

Thorn of the Black Rose: Welcome to Pauper, Personal Howling Mine. If you can resolve this guy at parity, it’s almost always Game Over. Combines very well with all your cheap interaction, especially (Raven’s Crime). Side her out vs. Spellstutter Sprites and haste creatures. 

Gurmag Angler: The cleanup crew. He’s here to hit for chunks, to get cast four 4 on turn 4 or for 1 on turn 8 after you chain a bunch of spells. I have cut down to one because of how poorly he trades vs. edicts, graveyard hate, and journey to nowhere, but run more if you’d like. 

The Lands: 

Barren Moor / Forgotten Cave: These are here for utility. Don’t be afraid to play them tapped early, especially on turn 1 if you’re holding 3 lands or fewer in your opening hand. You can pick them up later with a Rakdos Carnarium and you can cash them in for another card. 

Bojuka Bog: Your best card vs. some of your worst matchups. It’s uncounterable graveyard hate. If you can, pick it up again and again vs. Tron, RW tokens and Dimir Flicker. Side it out when you want to go down to 21 lands, like vs. Izzet Delver. 

Bloodfell Caves: Your default Turn 1. The extra life doesn’t hurt either since most of the time you have to play from behind as far as life totals. 

Radiant Fountain: Here to help you catch up, to eat a burn spell, and to be recursed with Carnarium. I sometimes run two. I depends on how much color screw your wish to risk. 

Rakdos Carnarium: The secret to karoo lands is that they have the additional unwritten text, “Draw an extra land” since 1 Carnarium plus your replayed land is 3 mana from 2 cards. Also combos exceptionally well with your utility lands and Raven's Crime. And it fixes both colors! 

6 Mountains. Having an untapped red source turn 1 on the draw is key vs. aggro. 

5 Swamps. You’re only running 1 double-colored spell in the deck, and most of your big plays are 3 and 4 mana so you should be okay with only 11 total basics. Sequence your lands so that you know which turns you can take a turn off to play a tapped land. Often I find it’s turn 4. 


Pyroblast: The best sideboard card in Pauper vs. the best color in Pauper. Only mono-blue Delver’s recent decline would ever make me play less than 4. 

Duress: Here for your worst matchups vs the blue control decks and Burn to help your resolve your spells, take their combo pieces, and get perfect information. 

Gorilla Shaman: Pauper’s only $20 card is the best answer to the most unfair deck in the format, Affinity. If not for the Mox Monkey, I have no doubt Affinity would have been hit with another ban a long time ago. I like to run 3 because they are so shutdown powerful versus Affinity and can double as a way to eat a couple lands vs. RW Tokens. 

Electrickery: Adds versatility vs the decks where your 1-mana spot removal is at its worst: RW Tokens, Bogles, Aristocrats, GR Tokens, Elves. It’s also a great tempo play vs. Delver. 

Relic of Progenitus: I like 2 as a way to attack the resources of the decks that prey on you, namely Tron and Dimir Flicker. If control is weaker in the field, cut to one or zero. 

That’s it for this time, and I’ll be back next time with a sideboard and matchup guide against the top pauper decks of the field.