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By: jcf, Jose Freitas
Aug 27 2018 12:00pm
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In the last article of this series, we discussed some tools to obtain extra cards or the cards you need in Pauper. In this article let's talk about a more aggressive approach to obtain card advantage: depriving your opponent from cards.

There are two strategic differences between drawing/obtaining cards for you and taking cards from your opponent:

A) Drawing extra cards won't directly affect your opponent's game plan, it might find you the answers you need, but that is a two step plan. Discarding cards from your opponent might directly affect his/her game plan, sometimes you just take out some key card that will slow down his/her early game.  

An example:

  • Imagine your opponent is playing burn.
  • They starts with Mountain + Lava Spike.
  • You go with Island + Preordain.
  • 2nd turn your opponent plays 2nd Mountain + Curse of The Pierced Heart.
  • Maybe Preordain finds a nice spell to deal with that situation, maybe not. But Preordain itself didn't directly intervene with opponent's spell. You need to use the card you selected or other cards to deal with it later.
  • Now, replace your turn with: Swamp + Duress. You get to see your opponent's hand and decide Curse of The Pierced Heart is the best card there. You take it out and opponent have to change their plans. You effectively and directly slowed things down. 

B) Most times, drawing extra cards is very good late game. Discarding cards is better in the early game, but discard spells can be dead cards later, specially against aggressive decks.

So, often decks that draw a lot of cards carry a considerable amount of defensive spells, they are vulnerable in the early game and they want the game to go longer. Alternatively they could be combo decks with ways to produce massive amounts of mana and/or killing the opponent in one big turn.

Decks that are heavily focused on discarding cards should probably be a bit more proactive, carrying a couple of efficient threats to seal the deal as soon as possible after the initial disruption.

Some cards that might be a good support in a disruption deck:

Gurmag Angler: This card is possibly the most efficient threat black has to offer. Early game you are filling your graveyard with discard spells, so it shouldn't be hard to cast it for 3 or 4 mana around turn four. I am not sure this kind of deck could fit four copies, like UB Angler decks (those decks have cards really dedicated to fill the graveyard, like Thought Scour). But I am sure at least 2 copies are adequate. Sadly, if you are playing a discard deck, facing this guy on the other side might be terrible, because you are filling opponent's graveyard with cards. But any strategy will have  one or two weak spots (Deep Analysis can be another terrible card to face with this strategy)

Putrid Leech: While the ability costs life, there are ways to regain it. Also if you are slowing down your opponent's game plan, often you are not worried about taking a few points of damage as long as you can win the game before he/she can recover. This might be a good fit in a disruptive deck.

Crypt Rats: Because you are attacking your opponent's hand, he/she will probably try to put out his/her hand on the board as fast as possible. Crypt Rats and Pestilence might work as tools to wipe the board after the initial stage, often leaving a big threat on your side.

Thorn of The Black Rose: If you manage to slow your opponent down, this guy could be the nail in the coffin. Granting you extra resources to win the game.

Dauthi Slayer: Another route to try is evasion. Black offers a suite of relatively low casting cost evasive creatures that could take the game before your opponent can recover from disruption. Some others to go with this strategy are: Dauthi Horror, Dauthi Marauder and Dross Golem. Another interesting card to consider is Skittering Skirge, if you manage to handle it's drawback.

Liliana's Shade: One or two copies of those could present a considerable clock mid to late game.

Now that we looked at some support cards, lets continue with our list of ways to get card advantage in Pauper!  

4a) Discarding Opponent's Cards:

These are some of the most efficient/curious cards to quickly get rid of opponent's hand:

Wrench Mind: Well, we don't have Hymn to Tourach in MTGO Pauper (and I guess paper Pauper follows the online legality currently), so Wrench Mind is the closest we can get.  If your opponent isn't holding artifacts, this is a very powerful spell early game, two copies turns 2 and 3 will heavily spoil your opponent's plans and open the path for victory.

Mindlash Sliver and Cry of Contrition: This little combo will rip 3 cards from your opponent's hand by turn 2. While you are also investing 3 cards of your own, your deck might be better prepared for war on low resources. If you manage to discard something that generates value with Mindlash Sliver, like Deep Analysis, Basking Rootwalla or even Sanitarium Skeleton it might help getting ahead. Maybe this combo does justify playing 4 copies of Gurmag Angler after all, since you can use extra copies as discard fodder for Mindlash Sliver anyway. Mindslash Sliver does retain some value as a discard spell late game, because the ability can be played as instant (on opponent's draw step).

Consult the Necrosages: This a particular spell in the format, it can be used as discard early game or card draw later. It is a bit slow but quite flexible.

Augur of Skulls: This one is very vulnerable turn 2, It can be killed before you reach your next upkeep. However, if it sticks it can get quite powerful with the aid of cards like Undying Evil and Supernatural Stamina. Additionally it can be a good blocker if you draw it later in the game.

Last Rites: This is a weird card, could be fun to try something. Maybe it could working decently with cards that fill your hand like (Squadron Hawks) and Legion Conquistador or cards that can be played from the graveyard like Deep Analysis.

Raven's Crime: This is an interesting tool against control decks. In a long game it might help preventing them from holding counterspells.

Mind Swords: At first glance, this card looks very bad, and well... maybe it is. Yet there are actually some perks here, exiling cards instead of discarding them can be relevant. On top of that, this card is good if you already put your whole hand down. Maybe some super-fast monoblack deck could benefit from it. The alternate cost might even cooperate with Cry of Contrition. Style points if you sacrifice a creature to pay the alternate cost and play Tragic Slip (with morbidin response to your own spell!

4b) Discarding Opponent's Cards with creatures that stick around: 

How about slower disruption while getting some value with your "discard spell". Mono Black Control decks have been using this approach for a long time and still putting up results 

Chittering Rats: While not exactly discarding a card, this is one of the best creatures of this kind in the Pauper format. Most M.B.C. decks will have 4 copies.

Ravenous Rats + Liliana's Specter: I love those two, Ravenous Rats, while anemic, only costs 2 mana and Liliana's Specter has evasion. It is still possible to find those in some M.B.C. lists, but most opt for maindeck Cuombajj Witches making 1 toughness creatures incompatible.

Okiba-Gang Shinobi: While expensive for a discard effect, this one is honestly my favorite. It can be devastating against control decks or combo decks trying to sculpt their hand. Pairs well with Liliana's Specter.

Mardu Skullhunter: If you are using a couple of one drops Mardu Skullhunter might fit. Cheap, reasonably aggressive, Bonesplitterable...

Lets take a break to test!

While M.B.C. does use some discard to generate value, it is not really dedicated to that.

M.B.C. relies on a balanced mix of efficient removal, card drawing and kill conditions. I wanted to glimpse what would happen with a more extreme discard strategy.

So, I drafted a list and put it to some testing in the tournament room. The basic concept is to discard opponent's hand with 20 cheap discard cards/effects and play one of our 9 relatively cheap threats to finish it before he/she can recover.

I think the list is actually reasonably powerful, but very high variance and very matchup dependent. I tried a few tweaks but the basic concept is this:  

Some Test Games:

Golgari Heavy Discard vs Izzet Kiln Fiend.

Game 1: We started with 3 Mindlash Slivers but no Cry of Contrition. Got temurraged. Loss!

Game 2Opponent never gets the second Island to play Gush and we end up discarding his/her whole hand, making Kiln Fiends and Nivix Cyclops much smaller than they should be. Win!

Game 3Opponent does get 2 Islands but doesn't play Gush. Again we have a strong start and end up discard his/her whole hand. Win!

Golgari Heavy Discard vs Grixis Tortured Existence.

Game 1This represents everything we don't want to meet when playing a focused discard strategy. Entropic Eidolon keeps getting back to his/her hand while (Muldrifter)s + Tortured Existence blanks our spells. Loss!

Game 2Once again, recurring Mulldrifters made me feel there was no path to victory and I scooped. Loss!

Golgari Heavy Discard vs Affinity.

Game 1: Opponent got color hosed and we managed to discard one Gearseeker Serpent and one Perilous Research with our second Wrench MindWin!

Game 2: Opponent had an Atog in play but our Liliana's Shade got quite fat and opponent scooped. Win!

5) Selecting and Discarding Opponent's Cards:

Now, if we are not going so heavily into discard strategy, we might as well be picky about what cards we want out of the picture. Let's take a look at some more selective cards:
Duress: A nice sideboard tool for black, some decks use a couple maindeck to get thru countering spells or removal.
(Divest): Black has lots of great removal, but this card is nice to avoid come in play effects from cards like Mulldrifter, Chittering Rats or Gray Merchant of Asphodel . 
Mire's Toll: While this card doesn't see much play, I think it has some potential. With a couple more disruption it is often possible to pick from an entire hand around turn 3 or 4. Not so bad. It is capable of discarding lands, which can be relevant once in a while. 
Castigate: If you are going Orzhov this card is quite an opportunity. As far as I know there is no coming back from exile in the Pauper format while grabbing stuff back from the graveyard is not unusual at all.
Mesmeric Fiend: Awesome if it sticks around, even better to sacrifice in response with cards like Carrion Feeder. Sometimes you can get it back from graveyard and do it all over again!
Distress: A decent option for monoblack decks.
Addle: Almost as good as Distress, you have to pick a color but it is splashable.
Selecting cards to discard might go well with Chittering Rats, taking the best card out of opponent's hand and denying one draw step the following turn looks like a good deal.  

6) Manipulating Opponent's Library:

Finally, we can mess with our opponent's library, black has exactly one card that I know of capable of doing that:Thoughtpicker Witch, which looks rather difficult to build around.
Blue has two strong mill cards in Jace's Erasure and Curse of The Bloody Tome. If your opponent is playing a very redundant/linear deck, milling usually won't affect his/her draws. But, if your opponent has combo pieces and/or relevant singles in his/her deck, it might.

Coming Next:

Next article I plan to take a brief break from this card advantage series and play a Pauper Friendly League using one or two cards that might surprise you! Don't Miss!
See you next time, battle well and have fun!