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By: jcf, Jose Freitas
Nov 05 2018 11:00am
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Welcome to the fourth and last of the "18 Ways to Get Card Advantage in Pauper" article series!

First I intend to wrap things up, recapping all the 18 ways to get card advantage with links to the previous articles. 

So far we covered ten ways, so we have eight more to go.

Second I will give more details and examples on the the remaining eight.

So, let's go!

18 Ways Brief:

1) Drawing extra cards.

Simply cast spells to draw extra cards.

2) Selecting cards from your library.

Sometimes you don't need a lot of cards, just the best ones.

3) Searching your library for cards.

Pauper has several ways to search for the card you need or more than one card at once.

See the first article here.

4) Discarding opponent's cards.

Disrupt your opponent's game plan by making them discard their hand early game.

5) Selecting cards from opponent's hand to discard.

Surgically select cards to take from your opponent's hand and make your gameplan based on what is left.

6) Manipulating opponent's library.

Sometimes your opponent won't even draw that key spell they need because you milled it away.

See the second article covering those.

7) Killing Opponent before they can use their cards.

Kill fast and leave a bunch of unused cards in opponent's hand.

8) Card Efficiency - Impact per Cost.

Some cards have more impact than others, always look for the most efficient cards available.

9) Synergy.

Sometimes two cards give more than the sum of the parts, representing virtual card advantage.

10) Card Advantage Thru Gameplay.

Try to force or induce your opponent into situations you can force a two for one. And avoid getting into traps.

Link to the third article covering those.

In this article we will cover the remaining eight:

11) Focus on a specific resource.

Kill all the lands and/or kill all the creatures.

12) Dodge or nulling opponent's cards. 

Try to use a strategy that make their cards useless or less effective.

13) Card versatility.

More versatile cards have a higher probability of being useful, but that comes at a cost.

14) Two or more targets for your spell.

Why choose between two creatures when you can kill both ?

15) Board sweepers.

Not so fast opponent, let's clear and restart.

16) Transforming useless cards into usable cards or effects.

Use cards that can make some use of those lands you topdeck late game.

17) Repeatable spells and effects.

Some repeatable effects can take over a game against specific lists. 

18) Bringing cards back from the graveyard.

The Pauper Format has several creatures capable of bringing stuff back from graveyard. 

More Details on the Remaining Eight:

11) Focus on a specific resource:

Stone Rain

Some decks can disrupt the opponent's game plan by focusing heavily on a very specific resource. In the Pauper format, the two main strategies to achieve that goal are land destruction and creature removal.

Land destruction is a risky high payoff strategy. When it works properly, opponent simply won't be able to cast their spells. But if opponent manages to dodge the initial mana denial, you are probably in trouble.

Mana acceleration is important to start destroying lands as soon as possible, for that reason, the most popular decks for land destruction in Pauper are Monoblack LD and Monogreen LD.

Monogreen have mana dorks and some value with cards like: Mold Shambler and Mwonvuli Acid-Moss. Also it can ramp all the way up to cast Ulamog's Crusher.  

Monoblack is probably the most consistent strategy, taking advantage of creature removal to slow things down and great support cards for the archetype like Gurmag Angler, Thorn of the Black Rose. A few board wipers like Pestilence or Crypt Rats might be a good add.

One of the best removal oriented decks is Dimir Control. There are many possible versions. Some rely on a few threats like Gurmag Angler and Mulldrifter. Some are creatureless or nearly, with a couple Thorn of the Black Rose for monarchy, it is a great fit with tons of removal and Evincar's Justice as the kill condition.

This is an interesting version using Devious Cover-Up to prevent empty library. Cool tech.

Gurmag Angler as the main kill condition here:

Sometimes, even control decks have trouble against a lot of creature removal. I remember playing monoblue and drawing more cards than opponent, but facing so much removal that I actually empty my library before I could kill them. Pauper is full of creature based decks making that an effective strategy. But it has its risks, a grindy opponent might overcome you. 

Other interesting colors for this kind of deck are monoblack and Rakdos. Rakdos has great sideboard options like Pyroblast and Gorilla Shaman. Monoblack makes the most of Crypt Rats, the best sweeper in the format, also, any monoblack deck has extra style points for being pure evil.

12) Dodging or nulling opponent's cards. 

gladecover scout

Some decks can gain card advantage not by taking opponent's cards, but by making them unplayable. The two best examples are Hexproof Auras a.k.a. Bogles and Creatureless Control.

Because Pauper is highly based on creatures, and creatures are quite strong in the format, almost every deck carries some amount of removal, Lightning Bolt as example is seemly the 5th most played card in the format. Almost any deck with access to red will have four copies maindeck.

The first thing Bogles is trying to do is to make opponent's removal useless. Creatures with hexproof, like Slippery Bogle, Gladecover Scout and Silhana Ledgewalker are the base of the deck.

The second thing is to both present a fast clock with Ancestral Mask/Ethereal Armor and gain chunks of life with Armadillo Cloak. The amount of life you gain will nullify most (non-infect) threats in the format. Ancestral Mask gets bigger than Delver of Secrets, Gurmag Angler, Atog and Tireless Tribe. The one card that can outsize it is Timberwatch Elf, let's just say if Bogles and Elves are fighting each other, you don't want to be near around!

Usually the deck has a couple Khalni Garden to help against sacrifice spells like Chainer's Edict

Bogles is not an easy deck to pilot but it can be quite rewarding, it is really good against an unprepared deck/opponent, but usually they will have a plan. 

The original version is straight Selesnya colors, but the modern versions usually have one or two splashed tech in the sideboard like Dispel, Pyroblast, Flaring Pain or Duress

Pauper has some strong hate against enchantments, like Leave No Trace, Serene Heart and Patrician's Scorn so it is important to be careful after sideboarding. Even a timely Echoing Truth or Electrify can ruin Bogles' day.

Now, if Bogles is capable of dodging removal, what about a list without creatures at all ? Some Dimir Control builds rely on alternative win conditions, like Curse of The Bloody Tome and Evincar's Justice and will run no creatures at all. 

Many decks will have an amount of creature removal stuck in hand while being milled to madness. At least on the first game.

The rest of the deck is mostly card draw like Deep Analysis and reactive spells. Counterspell and creature removal will surely be there. It is a very strong and consistent strategy, it combines two card advantage elements at its core, dodging opponent's cards and focusing on one resource. 

One of the risks with this strategy is if opponent manages to become the monarch. Having no creatures means you will never have the chance to steal monarchy, maybe that even justifies a couple monarchy enablers in the sideboard or even maindeck.

Resilient creatures like Young Wolf and Loyal Cathar might be a headache, but a good pilot will know how to deal with it. It is important to have one or two cards to exile opponent's graveyard, you don't want them to recoup a massive amount of creatures later in the game with cards like Reaping the Graves. Also, it is advisable to keep an eye on the clock when playing those decks, grindy and defensive, with a few kill conditions, means time can become a problem sometimes.

Circles of Protection (mostly green and red) and Standard Bearer are interesting sideboarding options capable of nullifying opponent's cards. Sometimes Standard Bearer can almost win on itself, against decks like Stompy, Hexproof Auras or Infect.

Another strategy trying to nullify creatures are Fog based decks, a.k.a. Turbofog. Many times they are also creatureless or nearly. Huge amounts of draw spells combine with Fog spells and some mill engine like Jace's Erasure for the kill. It can be really effective against creature decks and very annoying to play against. A bit narrow and risky but it can work very well in the right metagame. Flaring Pain can be difficult to deal with since you might be filling opponent's graveyard with them. 

13) Card Versatility.

boomerang

Some cards are more versatile than others, usually that comes at a cost. More versatile cards decrease chances of being dead in your hand. They may be a good call if you expect a diverse metagame with decks using alternative strategies. Narrow cards tend to have lower cost, being a better choice against a fast metagame. Let's take a look at some examples:

Journey to Nowhere vs. Oblivion Ring: Can't get more essential than that. Both cards have very similar effects, both having the perk of exiling instead of destroying and both vulnerable to enchantment removal. For one extra mana, Oblivion Ring can deal with artifacts and enchantments while Journey to Nowhere can only hit creatures. Against decks like Creatureless Control or Hexproof Auras Oblivion Ring would be useful, while Journey would probably hang in your hand doing nothing. Against a fast deck like Slivers, the extra mana could be a problem. 

Lightning Bolt vs. Flame Slash: Another example of very similar spells, in that case we have the same casting cost, but Flame Slash is more restrict both for being a sorcery and for targeting only creatures. Against a creatureless deck, as example, Lightning Bolt might not be optimal but is not a dead card. The payoff is having one extra point of damage to deal with Flame Slash, reaching creatures like Carapace Forger and Myr Enforcer.

Vapor Snag vs. Echoing Truth: Not only Vapor Snag cost one less mana, it comes with a small damage dealing bonus that can be relevant in tempo decks. Echoing Truth is much more versatile tho, and can be more powerful in some situations. Once in a while you get to bounce two or more permanents instead of one and it is a great defense against tokens. I think Vapor Snag is more suit for aggressive tempo decks, and Echoing Truth deserves one or two slots in blue control decks

Counterspell vs. Dispel, Annul and Envelop: Counterspell is one of the most powerful cards in the format, due it's versatility and low cost. But countering spells can be even cheaper if you restrict the card types you want to counter. Very classic example of versatility vs cost. Counterspell is slower but will do the job almost every time. The other three are super fast, but could hang in your hand if opponent's spells doesn't match the type you need. Most of the time those fast and narrow counterspellers belong to sideboards.  

Groundswell vs. Vines of Vastwood: Even supposedly simple things like pump spells can sometimes be compared on cost vs versatility. Vines of Vastwood is a very versatile pump spell, you can cast it on opponent's creatures to prevent their own pump spells, you can save your creature from any kind of targeted removal and for two mana you can pump it +4/+4. Groundswell will pump the same amount for half the cost if you had land entering play that turn.

Terminate vs. Recoil: Another interesting example. Both cards are multicolor, both are instants, both from the same block. While Terminate has basically no restrictions, it can only deal with creatures. It is one of the most powerful removal in the format, but narrow in a sense. Recoil not only costs one more mana, the effect is watered down. If your opponent has some spare card to discard, you might see the targeted permanent again. 

On the other hand Recoil is a lot more versatile, it can even deal with lands. I remember sideboarding in some Recoil against Urza lands and bounce lands like Dimir Aqueduct or Izzet Boilerworks and having a blast, nothing feels better in a control vs control match than developing your side while disrupting opponent's mana base.

14) Two or more targets for your spell.

Ashes to Ashes

One cool thing in the Pauper Format are the spells that can target more than one problem in the game. Years of card design gave us a couple engines to achieve that. Let's highlight some cards:

Ancient Grudge: Gruul has the best tool against artifacts. Ancient Grudge is no exception. Cast early on artifact lands and later on Myr Enforcers. Quite powerful.

Ray of Revelation: Jace's Erasure ? Curse of The Bloody Tome ? Your problems are solved! Let'em mill! The answer will be right there in your graveyard.

Chainer's Edict: One of the best Flashback cards in the format, widely used in control decks. Works better with a lot of removal or some board wipers like Crypt Rats. You can wipe the small stuff and  what is left.

Gleeful Sabotage: Quite a sideboard card, Conspire isn't hard at all for green to achieve. This can help tons against affinity decks and enchantment based decks.

Aethertow: Maybe this could be an interesting sideboard piece...

Ashes to AshesPainful, powerful, cruel: like the dark side should be. Five life is not exactly a bargain, but imagine exiling two Gurmag Anglers or Carapace Forgers with that. Might be a great deal sometimes. One downside with this card: you actually need two targets. You can't kill just one creature with this card. If you plan to try it out, maybe it is a good idea to have some spare dork on your side, like a Ravenous Rats that you can target. Or simply put enough pressure on the opponent forcing them to cast more than one creature on their side. Also, I love the concept of playing that in a life gain deck, sounds cool.

Dust to Dust: If you didn't like the "non-artifact" restriction on Ashes to Ashes, maybe you could build an Orzhov deck with both cards! Ok, kidding, kidding, but Dust to Dust is one of the best sideboard cards white has against Affinity decks. It can be devastating sometimes. Because the targets are exiled, cards like Chromatic Star and Ichor Wellspring won't cantrip when targeted. Usually they are not the targets you are looking for, but this can matter once in a while.

Aerial Volley: If you dislike annoying faeries, this might be the sideboard for you. For only one mana you can eliminate one flipped Delver of Secrets plus one faerie or maybe three faeries at once. Being an instant might help casting it in those small windows opponent taps out. Like the end of your own turn. A powerful sideboard card.

Rolling Thunder: Usually this spell has many targets. When it has only target, probably it is the opposing player for 20 or 30 damage. Quite a card if you have tons of mana.

15) Board Sweepers.

swirling sandstorm

Being an all commons format, Pauper doesn't have a billion board sweepers. But the ones that are present can be quite relevant. Let's see:

Crypt Rats: I would say this is the staple sweeper in the format, not only it can deal tons of damage to everything, there are many support cards like: Dark Ritual, Unearth and Grim Harvest that interact well with our little furry rodent.

Pestilence: A bit slower than Crypt Rats, but there are benefits. If you manage to keep immune creatures in play, like Obsidian Acolyte Order of Leitbur or Guardian of the Guildpact, you get to keep the enchantment in play for another round. In monoblack you can try to put some big butts in play like Gurmag Angler and wipe the small dorks. Also, Pestilence adds 2 devotion for Gray Merchant.

Even if all creatures die, you get to activate Pestilence twice if you do it at the end of turn. Suppose you have 10 swamps in play, you can play Pestilence, cast it for 6 at end of opponent's turn and for 10 on your turn. In a deck with some Tendrils of Corruption to gain life and Thorn of The Black Rose to draw extra cards, Pestilence is a reasonable kill condition.   

Evincar's Justice: One of the best sweepers in the format, the only risk is facing a lot of creatures with three or more toughness, like: Kor Skyfisher, Myr Enforcer and Gurmag Angler. But usually decks using this card have a lot of other removal capable of dealing with those.

Martyr of Ashes: Some monored decks use this as sideboard against swarm decks. This can be very powerful early game against an unprepared opponent. Late game there is a risk of having no red cards in hand to show for the ability. I used to play an Izzet Faeries deck with four of those maindeck. It could enable Ninja of the Deep Hours, wouldn't kill my faeries and since the deck had draw engines, I would often have red cards in hand mid/late game. Also, having some flyers pressuring opponent's life total would induce them to put their swarm on the table to race. This was a while ago and the metagame is very different now, I might try it sometime but I am not sure it would work.

Swirling Sandstorm: One of the most powerful sweepers in the format. This card will kill almost everything that doesn't fly, some of the few exceptions are Ulamog's Crusher, Gearseeker Serpent and Guardian of the Guildpact. Many Izzet Delver decks use a couple of those in the sideboard, super sweet if you have flyers in play. 

Electrickery: There are many cards in Pauper that can deal 1 damage to every creature or similar effects. Shrivel, Nausea, Wail of The Nim, Blazing Volley, Cower in Fear, Holy Light and even Sandstorm are some examples. Electrickery is probably the most played for it's versatility. Those cards can be devastating against some decks and quite irrelevant against others, usually they belong to sideboards or as one copy in main to be searched for. 

Krark-Clan Shaman: One of my favorite sweepers in the format, Pauper offers many cantrip artifacts making his ability viable in the right list. 

Fade Away: This is a weird sweeper, sometimes it works wonders, sometimes it doesn't do much. Blue sweeping is not easy to find and this card does see play in some sideboards once in a while.

16) Transforming useless cards into usable cards or effects.

wild mongrel

Some cards are useful early in the game but not desirable later. Lands are the perfect example, many times we want to develop our curve early, but how great it would be to draw no lands later. Well, that is not possible I guess, but maybe we can transform our lands or other undesired cards into more useful effects. Let's see some examples:

Atog: One of the best creatures in the format, the power of Atog is transforming all your artifact lands and mana fixers into pump effects. Many artifacts are cantrips making this guy even more powerful.

Faithless Looting: Not only a viable card in Pauper, but a staple in Modern. For only one mana you get to trade two cards in your hand and do it again later if needed. Quite a card.

Tireless Tribe: While this guy belongs in a very dedicated combo deck it is, in a way, transforming each card in your hand onto a pump effect. Not very impressive when on toughness, deadly when switched.

Oona's Grace: Retrace is a very interesting mechanic. Transforming lands into something useful late game can be helpful. Some blue decks want all the lands available to combo with Ghostly Flicker, but the more traditional Monoblue Control decks - holding the bay with Spire Golem and playing billions of Counterspells can benefit from that card. Extra combo points if you use Gush and/or Fathom Seer to cycle even more lands.

Other relevant cards with retrace are: Cenn's Enlistment, Raven's Crime, Syphon Life and Flame Jab. The green retrace card: Monstrify doesn't see a lot of play. I like how Flame Jab interact with Kiln Fiend and such, it is an interesting option to help prevent those floody draws red decks dislike so much. Maybe this list could replace one Forgotten Cave with one Flame Jab

Soratami Cloudskater: What an interesting card. You get to play all your lands and return them to trade for useful cards late game. But you can also discard any card you want. Another reward is to combo with lands like Mortuary Mire, Radiant Fountain or maybe even Khalni Garden for some extra value.

Wild Mongrel: This was quite strong back when Standard legal. In the Pauper world it is still a solid card, but not impressive. The competition is not easy for creatures there. But it is still reasonably powerful with madness spells and it can make use of cards in your hand as pump.

Waterfront Bouncer: Well, if pumping isn't your thing, maybe bouncing. This card did see play in standard back in the day. Looks vulnerable but maybe it is a fit in some weird madness combo deck.

17) Repeatable spells and effects.

whispers of the muse

The Pauper format has its share of repeatable effects, depending on the match you are facing, they can represent a devastating form of card advantage or sometimes be irrelevant.

Buyback and recover are two mechanics that permit you play the same spell over and over again, provided you have a billion mana. 

Buyback is the simpler one, just pay an extra cost, usually mana, and get that spell back to your hand as long as it resolves. Exiling cards from the graveyard won't stop buyback, but if the spell fizzles it does go to graveyard. 

Some interesting spells with buyback:

Evincar's Justice: I believe this one is the most played spell with buyback right not in the format. A powerful fourth turn sweeper and a late game soft lock / kill condition.

Capsize: I love this card, a but slow and clunky for the metagame, but it can be so much fun late game. Bouncing strategic targets at instant speed can be a torment for the opponents.

Whispers of The Muse: Not bad at all, you can quickly cantrip this one early game if needed, late game it becomes a nice draw engine.

Disturbed Burial: I always wanted to make this card work. It can become a card advantage tool with cycling creatures or come in play effects. The decks I did try became super clunky. I like the card but it is hard to make it work.

Shattering Pulse: This card did see some play in the sideboard of Urza land decks, it can be devastating against affinity late game. 

Sprout Swarm: In the right deck, this card can be the solo kill condition.

Lab Rats: Shouldn't Lab Rats be blue ? Some day I will build a rat deck and use this one! ;)

Elvish Fury: A small pump for one mana and a repeatable pump later, not so bad. MAybe in the right deck this is playable.

Some spells with recover:

Grim Harvest: Old school players used to combo this card with Mulldrifter for a powerful draw engine. Also it goes really well with Crypt Rats offering both some board sweeps and a kill condition. This is a strong card.

Icefall: Once I built a monored deck with this and some Emrakul's Hatcher. Not exactly a serious deck, but it was so annoying when it worked. Good times!

Some repeatable effects that have the potential to devastate the board if left unchecked:

Timberwatch Elf: Not a rare event to see this guy giving +10/+10 or more every turn. Possibly the most powerful repeatable effect in the format, as long as you can keep some elves in the table. 

Sparksmith: The pinger of choice for goblins, you can try to gain some life or simply using your goblin swarm to kill opponent as fast as possible. 

Vulshok Sorcerer: There are many pingers in the format, but this is by far my favorite one. I love that it has haste and playing two in a row can kill 2 toughness creatures. Not the most powerful card in the format but one of my pet cards for sure.

Razorfin Hunter: So they created a merfolk goblin... ain't that a weird puppy. Not a bad pinger for only two mana.

Viridian Longbow: The best home for this card are green decks, with cards like Nettle Sentinel and Quirion Ranger that can untap and deal more than one damage. But any deck is capable of dealing two or more damage with this, if you have three mana available and two or more creatures to equip. Against some lists, like faeries or elves, this card can be devastating.

Tortured Existence: In the right builds this card can do wonders for only one black mana. Play some Grave Scrabblers and have a blast reusing your creatures.

18) Bringing cards back from the graveyard.

ghoulraiser

The Pauper format has a considerable share of cards capable of returning stuff from graveyards attached to bodies.

Custodi Squire: One of the most recent additions to the format and one of the most powerful ones. A 3/3 flying body is quite relevant and being able to choose among three card types makes it the most versatile option available.

Corpse Cur: I love this card, while it is narrow, it can be very powerful in dedicated lists. I recommend using all four, nothing better than having two of those bringing each other back in a loop. Because it is dangerous to let infect creatures pass by, opponents will tend to block it every turn, slowly fading their army. Even as a blocker it is not that bad. A cool card. 

Cadaver Imp: Black has a lot of interesting cards to get back from the graveyard. This card is specially cool with Gray Merchant of Asphodel adding to the devotion count and bringing it back for more life draining. Also, I love it with a couple Okiba-Gang Shinobi, evasion plus doubled trigger, can't get much better than that.

Ghoulraiser: If you have a thing for zombies, this is your Gravedigger of choice. You can even reinforce the theme with cards like Ghoulcaller's Chant or Grave Scrabbler. As you probably know those cards can also bring back Nameless Inversion or other changeling spells.

Mnemonic Wall: I believe this is the most played card capable of returning instants or sorceries from the graveyard. But it is not my favorite. I prefer Archaeomancer, while it is not a great blocker, the wizard doesn't give the option to not return the targeted card. That means a lot less clicking since you don't have to choose yes each time it comes into play. Other interesting cards are Izzet Chronarch and Anarchist. The last is a monored option, capable of returning only sorceries. It is played in some combo decks like One Land Spy.

Auramancer: The Pauper format has many interesting enchantments you can bring back with this guy, my personal favorite is Weight of Conscience, but many cards like Seal of Fire, Seal of Removal and Dead Weight will do the trick. Some decks based around Tortured Existence use those to add consistency.

Tilling Treefolk: Combined with cards like Stinkweed Imp or Faithless Looting this is an interesting card. For only three mana, we get a reasonable body and two extra cards in hand. Golgari midrange is the home for this guy, maybe taking advantage of retrace Raven's Crime and lands matter cards like Corrupt.

Conclusion:

Pauper is a wide format and there are tons of ways to achieve card advantage. It feels like an impossible task to cover them all, I didn't even include a category for Dismantling Blow or the cipher mechanic and I am sure there are many cards I didn't get to mention.

Maybe that is one of the exciting aspects of the format, if you look up carefully, you might find some card or strategy that nobody is using that is actually strong against the current meta. Because there are so many options, it is easy to overlook some of them.

I hope this article series contributed to give some perspective on the format and helped to give some ideas about many possible ways to achieve card advantage, one of the core concepts in this game. 

Have fun testing. See you next time!