It's been a while since I've written a Magic-related article. I've been doing quite a bit of other writing and editing, but I haven't discussed Magic in article form for at least six months and likely longer. Bear with me if I'm a bit rusty.
Because of frustrations with the state and cost of Standard, I recently returned to MTGO to play Pauper. Pauper is one of my favorite formats because of its power level, diversity, and emphasis on skilled play. It's a format where Brainstorm, Ponder, and Lightning Bolt are legal but Force of Will is not--nor is Force necessary, because there are very few combo decks, and the combo decks that do exist are creature-based, which makes them easy to interact with.
As far as deck selection goes, I tend to gravitate toward interactive midrange decks that generate small advantages and then leverage them into game wins. This is a large reason I'm taking a break from Standard, as Emrakul, the Promised End and Smuggler's Copter tend to push those decks out of the metagame from both directions. Anyway, Pauper has a perfect deck for people who want to play proactive yet grindy games: Kuldotha Boros.
The deck's namesake card is Kuldotha Rebirth, but Rebirth is one of the least necessary cards for the deck to work. The whole deck is based around the synergy between artifacts that cantrip--Prophetic Prism and Ichor Wellspring, recently joined by Thraben Inspector--and bounce effects like Kor Skyfisher and Glint Hawk. Other synergies are the bounce effects and cycling lands--you can play the cycling lands so you have enough mana to operate with, and once you inevitably draw more lands than you need, you can cycle the ones you don't need to draw more spells.
What makes the deck work is similar to what makes most midrange decks in nonrotating formats work: It's a pile of efficient spells coupled with enough card advantage to drown an elephant (not that you'd want to). The artifact cantrips effectively give each of your creatures Investigate while simultaneously enabling Metalcraft and providing fodder for Kuldotha Rebirth and Angelic Purge. Sometimes you even use Kor Sanctifiers' Kicker to destroy your own Ichor Wellspring and draw an extra card!
Because this is one of the slower decks in Pauper, games typically play out in the same fashion. You spend the early turns developing your mana, removing your opponent's creatures, and drawing cards, and then you turn the corner with your own threats. Although that may seem simple, the sequencing is surprisingly difficult if you aren't familiar with it.
One of the most important things to concentrate on while playing the deck is proper land sequencing. Knowing which lands to play and then which to tap to cast given spells can be complicated, and there are a few tips and tricks. If you have all tapped lands including a cycle land and a Boros Garrison, you can lead off with the cycle land and then on turn two, tap it for mana, bounce it with the Garrison, and use the mana it made to cycle it. Later in the game, when you have more lands in play, you should tap your cycle lands and Kabira Crossroads first in case you want to bounce them with a Boros Garrison or Kor Skyfisher. Otherwise, you should tap your Boros Garrisons first because they are the least flexible of your mana producers (especially considering Prophetic Prism). Finally, keep in mind that you might need the artifact lands' help to achieve Metalcraft, bounce with Glint Hawk, or even sacrifice to Kuldotha Rebirth.
Sequencing your spells is more intuitive. Prioritize removal and cantrips--you'll always have time to win the game later. Consider how your removal will line up with your opponent's threats. Firebolt is almost always the first removal spell you want to use, as it has the lowest damage output and getting it into your graveyard gives you an extra option. In the late game, if you are ahead in the race or your opponent's board is so big you can't realistically stop all of their creatures, you may need to hold your burn spells to kill them the turn before they would kill you. Galvanic Blast is especially helpful for this plan.
Don't use Glint Hawk to bounce an artifact land unless you absolutely need it to block or pressure your opponent. Many Pauper decks have quite a bit of card advantage, and the only way Kuldotha Boros reliably beats them on that front is for each of your cards to get as much value as possible. Sometimes, though, you know you can outdraw them if the game lasts long enough and you just need to preserve your life total. Never cast Faithless Looting unless you need to draw something specific (usually more lands or a removal spell) or discard something specific (usually excess lands that don't cycle). If you have a Looting in your hand and a Looting in the graveyard, you will usually want to cast the one in the graveyard first, as you will frequently discard the one in your hand to it.
The sideboard is pretty self-explanatory. Because of financial issues, I'm missing Standard Bearers and Gorilla Shamans, but they're high on my priorities list. Standard Bearer is great against any deck with pump spells, most notably the green stompy decks, as well as against GW Auras. Gorilla Shaman is the only way to have a consistently solid matchup against Affinity. When you draw the Shaman, you can often render them unable to cast spells within two turns, and it also fights Atog, which is the only card you have real trouble with.
The deck's most positive matchups are small creature decks, including Elves and Goblins. The deck's worst matchups are Affinity (unless you have the Shamans), Burn, and Tron, although you can often burn Tron out if you can fade Fangren Marauder for a few turns. If you want to make the Burn matchup better, play Circle of Protection: Red over Lone Missionary and Prismatic Strands. If you want to make the Tron matchup better, play Molten Rain somewhere in your sideboard. If you want to make the Affinity matchup better, shell out 18 tix a pop for 2-3 Gorilla Shamans.
I feel compelled to mention there is a slightly different build of the deck, one with Battle Screech and Rally the Peasants. I don't personally like that build because it doesn't fit my play style, but it seems to be putting up slightly better results at the moment than the conventional build. This is likely because Rally plus tokens helps steal games against Affinity and Tron that you would otherwise lose.
Let me know if you have any questions about the deck or want to talk Pauper in general! I'll be back next week!