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By: deluxeicoff, Adrian Grey Marsden
Dec 22 2010 2:32am
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In 2010 - I played in every pauper tournament online with the exception of three.  Over the last year, I've saved every deck list from every tournament held.  This has helped me compile this year-end compilation of goods.  This article is meant as a reference to pauper’s tier one decks.  To be on the list below is to be feared.  I would have needed a hundred pages to fit all the sub-variants of many similar lists, so when in doubt, I chose a winning deck from the largest possible player turnout.  This article is broken into areas based on the decks noting: "The Good" - which is what the deck excels at... and "The Bad" - what the deck has trouble with vs. other tier one decks.  




This is enemy number one when deciding to build a new pauper deck.  Capable of consistent turn three kills, this traditional version of storm demands immediate answers or it will overrun you with goblin tokens and/or grape-shotting you to death.  This deck demands your opponent's answers, and fast!  Traditional storm has game against ANYTHING.


Traditional storm has been around for quite a while, and has no surprise value. From turn one, your opponent will know what you’re playing and adjust their game accordingly.  Cards like  Benevolent Unicorn, Prismatic Strands, Echoing Decay, Echoing Truth and Duress - act as a huge speed bump to a storm player's goal.  Hand disruptions and land destruction are very viable strategies toward beating this menace.  Storm can also burn out and leave itself with horrible board position and is considered quite fragile.  When playing control, the key to countering a storm player 'going off' is to counter their draw spells as much as possible.


Mono Blue (MUC)
This deck dominated the summer of 2010
1 Mulldrifter
3 Ninja of the Deep Hours
4 Pestermite
1 Sentinels of Glen Elendra
4 Spellstutter Sprite
4 Spire Golem
17 cards

Other Spells
4 Condescend
4 Counterspell
2 Dispel
3 Echoing Truth
1 Exclude
1 Remove Soul
1 Serrated Arrows
4 Think Twice
20 cards

19 Island
4 Quicksand
23 cards



This was perhaps the most hated deck in all of 2010.  It has a surprisingly good answer against both storm and goblins.  As for other decks, it can simply counter what it doesn't understand.  A fantastic deck choice when going in blind, as you have the awesome, two-island answer to everything in Counterspell.  This deck excels at answering threats during an opponent's turn and using the flash mechanic to its fullest potential.  Also, being mono-colored makes for some very consistent draws.


Muc's main weakness is its susceptibility to being overrun by a faster deck. The entire reason stompy (see below) emerged as a tier one deck was as an answer to muc.  Storm can be troublesome as well, as a counter or two isn't so great when running up a storm count, but cards like main-decked Echoing Truths help the odds considerably.  A strategy that works wonders against the muc player is efficient one damage spells like Flame Jab, Lava Dart, and creatures like Vulshok Sorcerer.  Basically if a card can repeatedly do one point of damage, they'll shine against this deck.


A constant among the top 8 all of 2010
4 Goblin Bushwhacker
4 Goblin Cohort
4 Goblin Sledder
4 Jackal Familiar
4 Mogg Conscripts
3 Mogg Flunkies
4 Mogg Raider
4 Mogg War Marshal
2 Sparksmith
33 cards

Other Spells
4 Chain Lightning
4 Lightning Bolt
2 Fireblast
10 cards

17 Mountain
17 cards

Mogg War Marshal




You’re almost guaranteed to face this in any tournament over four rounds, and there is good reason:  Goblins is SUPER CONSISTANT.  It comes running out of the gates swinging blood-soaked rocks and never stops.  It also has with some of the greatest main-decked powerhouse damage spells... if you’re still alive on turn five, count yourself lucky!


The main weakness of goblins is life gain.  Additionally red can wreak havoc on goblins too, cards like Arc Lightning, Staggershock and Firebolt can really set the goblin tempo back early on, allowing the board to develop quality blocking creatures as well as stunt the goblins growth.  If it’s turn seven or later, odds are goblins is going to lose... unless of course its opponent is at 5 or less life!  Goblins are very bad against white based life decks.  White weenie strategies are a great choice when this deck shows up in droves.


An explosive and consistant deck - have an answer or else!
4 Keldon Marauders
4 Kiln Fiend
8 cards

Other Spells
4 Incinerate
4 Chain Lightning
4 Lightning Bolt
4 Fireblast
4 Lava Spike
4 Needle Drop
4 Rift Bolt
3 Staggershock
1 Searing Blaze
32 cards

16 Mountain
4 Forgotten Cave
20 cards

4 Martyr of Ashes
3 Searing Blaze
4 Raze
4 Gorilla Shaman
15 cards
Chain Lightning



Every single deck hates the sense of dread it faces when playing against a burn deck.  Burn decks, like goblins - are VERY CONSISTANT.  Burn wins fast, so fast that if life gain wasn't of the quality it is, almost everyone would be playing burn.  Turn three kills are possible with a turn two Kiln Fiend on the board - but even without creatures, this deck is going to give your opponent a VERY fast haircut of the sulfuric persuasion! 



Like goblins, burn's main weakness is life gain and damage prevention.  If a player has no way of gaining life quickly, the advantage is all burn.  A lack of main-deck card draw (with the exception to the cantrips in the above list) -sometimes leaves a burn deck to burn itself out.  Players love to hate this deck for its ease of use, but there's no arguing its brutal effectiveness.  Answers for Prismatic Strands and Circle of Protection: Red are usually found in Flaring Pain - but running counter-answers can cost the burn player crucial turns and lack of consistency.  Often it is better to just 'be the problem.'



"Toolbox" is a great way to describe this deck of answers.  Teachings is a control based deck that has answers to every deck out there.  Using early game removal and/or counters, the teachings player builds their mana up to abuse end-of-turn Mystical Teachings, to search for whatever answer they need.  If allowed to enter the mid-late game, teachings is VERY hard to beat. 


Similar to muc, teachings can be overrun quickly by decks like goblins, stompy and affinity.  Sometimes when facing a creature light deck (like burn or storm) the teachings player will be at a big disadvantage game one due to all their main-decked creature hate.  The main knock against this powerhouse is player skill.  DO NOT play this deck without having had about 30-50 practice games against good players. Similar to playing storm, this deck isn't to be lightly considered.  The options are vast and the penalty for disregarding your teachings is a quick 0-2 record!

With many different builds to choose from - this list placed the most consistantly...
4 Frogmite
4 Myr Enforcer
4 Quicksilver Behemoth
4 Somber Hoverguard
16 cards

Other Spells
4 Chromatic Star
3 Chromatic Sphere
2 Lotus Petal
2 Reaping the Graves
3 Rush of Knowledge
2 Scale of Chiss-Goria
2 Serrated Arrows
4 Springleaf Drum
4 Thoughtcast
26 cards

1 Ancient Den
3 Darksteel Citadel
3 Great Furnace
2 Island
1 Lonely Sandbar
4 Seat of the Synod
4 Vault of Whispers
18 cards

Rush of Knowledge



BANNED!  Yes, affinity is the only pauper deck out there that at one time - a card was banned!  Even after that, it is STILL nasty.  So nasty in fact, that if less artifact hate (I'm looking at you Gorilla ShamanSmash to Smithereens) were available - I'm sure we'd see more cards from this list being banned.  Affinity comes out almost as fast as goblins, but with the big difference that these guys are 4/4's!  Air power, crazy good card-draw and access to every color of magic make affinity a top choice. 


Affinity needs artifacts badly.  So much so, that a slight disruption either by bad draw, bad luck or an opponent playing a nasty hate spell turn one or two, can send the affinity player packing.  Affinity hates to see red, as most the best anti-artifact spells are within that color.  Additionally, burn is usually a tough match-up for the affinity player.  Similar to storm, affinity’s land base is very tight and fragile - sometimes causing it to lose to itself rather than be beaten.

A sea of one drops & a surprising answer to control...
4 Basking Rootwalla
4 Nettle Sentinel
4 Quirion Ranger
1 Rogue Elephant
4 Skarrgan Pit-Skulk
4 Silhana Ledgewalker
4 Wild Mongrel
25 cards

Other Spells
3 Bonesplitter
4 Gather Courage
4 Groundswell
4 Rancor
3 Vines of Vastwood
18 cards

17 Forest
17 cards

Skarrgan Pit-Skulk



Stompy is basically "quality goblins."  Small efficient beaters with great abilities and in some cases "unblock-ability" stacked atop the best instants and creature-boosting enchantments of all time.  These help make stompy's 2/2's into 6/6's that often can't be blocked.  This deck is crazy fast and is very resilient to opposing removal strategies, even when totally tapped out via Gather Courage.  This is NOT an easy deck to play correctly.  Quirion Ranger offers some surprising complex options even with only one forest in play... so player beware!



Stompy has a rough match-up with storm variants.  To win, it needs to come out swinging fast and have no tempo loss.  The main reason for Thermokarsts is to get in that one more attack phase.  Teachings can put up some frustrating games vs. stompy too - unless your Silhana Ledgewalkers and/or Vines of Vastwood show up in good numbers.

Storm (Familiar variants)
Many builds of this nasty beast!
4 Cloud of Faeries
1 Mnemonic Wall
4 Mulldrifter
4 Sunscape Familiar
13 cards

Other Spells
4 Snap
4 Frantic Search
4 Compulsive Research
4 Deep Analysis
2 Ponder
4 Preordain
3 Grapeshot
3 Temporal Fissure
28 cards

4 Azorius Chancery
4 Izzet Boilerworks
1 Plains
1 Mountain
5 Island
4 Evolving Wilds
19 cards

Temporal Fissure



Familiar storm variants are very powerful.  Some simply cast Temporal Fissure and win in the air after leaving your opponent with zero permanents in play.  Others take a more direct approach and use Grapeshot.  

All of them share the circle of abuse built upon these three cards: SnapFrantic Search, and Cloud of Faeries.  Using any or all of these with access to one or more dual land(s) out, the familiar storm player generates obscene amounts of mana, drawing tons of cards due to the minimized cost via Stormscape Familiar(s), and then doing it all over again by temporally fissuring its own permanents like Mnemonic Wall to recover whatever it needs from the graveyard and win. 


You can tell by the sideboard what this deck fears.  Burn isn't that bad, but goblins are.  Additionally, any spells that can target your lands can be game breakers.  With no counter-magic available main deck, this deck can be easy to disrupt... but do it fast!  Turn three is key for this deck.  Also one-damage spells can put a stop on the bouncing Cloud of Faeries plan - so long as they're instants.  This style of storm is slightly slower than the traditional one, but much more consistent and forgivable, since you often bounce every permanent back to your opponent’s hand.  As with any combo deck after sideboarding, it runs the risk of losing consistency in order to have answers to any of the above problems.  A well planned--out sideboarding strategy is key.

Pauper proves how good Wizards of the Coast is at vision and overall scope of the magic game in its entirety.  It is perhaps the most balanced format ever.  Pauper has vast opportunities as well as creativity, that just grows deeper with each set released. 
To find out when and where you can play pauper tournaments online, visit HERE.
So that wraps up 2010's season of Pauper. 
Until next time...

Thanks for reading, I hope to see your digital visage across from me for a game or three:
-Adrian Grey Marsden-
aka: "deluxeicoff" on MTGO
And special thanks to Paul Grasshoff.
My editor who saved you all from my horrible homonym misuse!



Really well done by Xaoslegend at Wed, 12/22/2010 - 04:23
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Really well done article,

I've taken a pass on pauper for quite some time but for the new or even moderately experienced player this is a really nice analysis and summary of the better decks in pauper.

Great graphics, great presentation. Might I suggest as a small note perhaps the creative use of space. Maybe when you have some of your breaks they could be separated out by some more white page in between some of the elements.


*consistent by chaosjuggler at Wed, 12/22/2010 - 07:12
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I'm surprised that's the only by deluxeicoff at Wed, 12/22/2010 - 20:08
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I'm surprised that's the only typo that slipped through! My work is a mess until my editor gets hold of it - but I still miss some of his handywork ;(

2 Items by SpikeBoyM at Wed, 12/22/2010 - 09:40
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Overall a great article. 2 minor quibbles:
1) You make no mention of Cloudpost decks which have been on the rise as of late.
2) I understand that the Affinity list provided may be the most consistent finisher, but I think you are doing the readers a disservice by not mentioning the new lists that came out with Scars of Mirrodin. Having access to 8 4/4s on the cheap is sure to make the deck stronger.


Good article, great analysis by RBJ at Wed, 12/22/2010 - 12:06
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Nice article deluxeicoff. The analysis you gave is accurate and informative, and like most readers I love to see decklists...and you came through quite well with those! This type of article can be difficult due to the plethora of versions for any deck, but I think you handled it well.

I agree with SpikeBoyM that Post decks should have been listed too, but I don't recall any of them winning a large turnout event recently so I can see why you didn't mention them. Perhaps you can reply with your analysis of that deck as well? I think they have some very good game against other decks, but would welcome your opinion. The mirror match is VERY interesting.

Strange how you didn't offer an analysis of WW though, didn't you win an event or two with it? ;)

I look forward to your future articles.


Thanks all, @ Alex - Izzet by deluxeicoff at Wed, 12/22/2010 - 20:06
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Thanks all,

@ Alex - Izzet post is on the rise, but I haven't seen it dominate just yet, due in part to no more PE's firing up...hard to justify a 4 round tourney comparing to the old 7-8 round slugfests. In time, perhaps 2011's roundup :)
Additionally, I'm of the VERY FIRM opinion that the 'new' affinity is weaker overall. I have a friend who's played both a ton, and after the newness (and shiny new card feeling) wore off, it is quite evident that the old one is about 3-5% better overall.

@RBJ - Yeah, I actually won 5 PE's in 2010 using WW, problem is that now the ONLY deck it beats is goblins. If I knew a goblin heavy environment was about, I'd just play oldschool B/U Blink and still have a chance against anything with islands, which WW loses horribly to!

@Xao - thanks for feedback, guess our styles clash - as I felt there was way too much white space still there :)

I have to disagree with you by grandpoobah at Sat, 12/25/2010 - 00:39
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I have to disagree with you on the SoM Affinity. It depends on the meta. In a more control-oriented meta, traditional affinity can be better because it can throw down more threats in one turn. However, for the same reason SoM Affinity is better against storm, it also has good game against control. Namely, the faster clock: SoM affinity much more reliably throws down a 4/4 on turn 2. That turn 2 threat effectively destroys MUC since it ruins draw-go. And against storm, that turn 2 threat is crucial to winning by turn 4. In a more aggro environment, the new Som Affinity is better--more 4/4 bodies overall, plus that turn 2 4/4 again helps prevent gobs from running way out ahead.

Great Article! by grapplingfarang at Thu, 12/23/2010 - 06:57
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Really good article, I like the format and I will deffinatly think about it showing it to new mtgo players when I tell them about how they can cheaply play pauper. I would really like to see a part 2 to this article to tell about a few of the tier 2 decks. Stuff like Cloudpost, Blink, MBC, BW Pestilence, WW, Elves, Slivers, New Affinity(It has changed so much with Scars and Atog as a common) would make a great article to show the diversity of pauper and as a guide for players getting into the format.

A suggestion.. by Alash at Thu, 12/30/2010 - 12:03
Alash's picture

Great article, and a very useful tool for those looking jump into the world of commons-only. One feature I think could make it even better, and also supports the rest of the article, is a summary of the matchups - be it via a complete matrix showing what beats what, or simply a third box below each archetype ordering into two brackets: those at 50% or higher, and those at less than 50%. That way the article also becomes a nice go-to reference for metagame shifts.

lol, be 'better' if I read it by deluxeicoff at Sat, 02/26/2011 - 00:23
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lol, be 'better' if I read it to everyone and personally showed them each deck too. At some point, you have to 'finish' and post.

AN OPEN LETTER TO WIZARDS: I by deluxeicoff at Fri, 09/28/2012 - 12:31
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I wrote the below to wizards regarding the health of the Pauper format:

I’m writing in concerns to a format your company, understandably – doesn’t value that much: Pauper. More specifically, I’m concerned with the health of the format and am writing to persuade ‘the powers-that-be’ some recommended banning’s from a player that has played in, literally, THOUSANDS of tournaments. Considering my magic resume and history, I hope this isn’t brushed aside as a misguided opinion, and is instead viewed as a valuable insight from a player with countless hours of competing and observing this great format.

At first glance, the storm mechanic seems to be the greatest offender. Many suggest the banning of the ramp engine similar to what happened in Modern. This is very valid argument, given Pauper’s vast resources – and I’m sure if Pro Tour-level events included the Pauper format, it would have happened long ago. Additionally, before “Frantic Search” was banned, the format was inundated with “Temporal Fissure” decks…if you need proof of this, look at my matchups in the videos here:
Where I faced it 5 out of 8 rounds!

The following cards should be put on a ‘watch list’ – I’m not suggesting this list be banned, just watched closely:

Rite of Flame, Flickerform, Glimmerpost, Gitaxian Probe, Fling, Snap, Cloud of Faeries, Temporal Fissure, Grapeshot, Ponder, Preordain, Lotus Petal, Flaring Pain and Invigorate.
Of all the above, I believe the three cards that are hurting the format most are:
Gitaxian Probe, Grapeshot and Snap.

Gitaxian Probe is used in everything from Empty the Warrens/Grapeshot Storm decks, to Mono-Blue Delver, Infect and various other off-color strategies. Limiting these to a ‘one-of’ would really help the format, allowing players a bit more fun as they have to gamble a bit more often with “all-in” styles of deck building. This ban would simply make the game more exciting and fun.

Grapeshot should be banned or limited to one for the very simple reason that the ONLY reliable way to negate this effect is the card Benevolent Unicorn. This isn’t that much of a problem for a savvy player, as the Transmute engine can search for a plethora of removal that cost two mana – even nastier is when a player has a prevention spell, that same search can stir up Flaring Pain after having drawn more than half his/her deck. If Pauper had 3-4 cards that had similar text to Benevolent Unicorn it wouldn’t be a problem – but as it sits now, this is really making the game less fun that it should be.

Snap is the last on my list. Mono-blue as well as the new breed of Temporal Fissure decks can already abuse Cloud of Faeries, but adding this to the list makes an offensive/defensive combination that is VERY hard to win against and creates a ‘hopeless feeling’ with many players I talk to. I’ve piloted this build plenty, and feel limiting the ‘free-mana’ spells to just the Cloud of Faeries would help immensely.

In closing, I hope this doesn’t fall on deaf ears. Instead, I hope it is viewed as a valuable insight and free think-tank analysis for a format your players love to play.

-Adrian Grey Marsden
‘deluxeicoff’ on mtgo