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By: SteveJeltz, Rev. David Wright
Oct 31 2017 12:00pm
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Unexpectedly Absent

Though the common rarity obviously exists both in paper and online Magic, Pauper as a format is currently only supported by Wizards as an MTGO-only format.  

Some of the reasons why Paper Pauper struggles are obvious, notably that on older cards it's not always clear what rarity a card is since the colored expansion symbol to represent rarity wasn't introduced in paper magic until the set Exodus.  

There are other reasons too. One is New World Order, that older cards were not developed in such a way to consider rarity to balance a format like Pauper. Reprints also are a significant problem to Paper Pauper since both a tournament organizer and its players would need to be aware of a card’s past printings at all rarities in order to determine Pauper legality.  

Older sets, especially magic’s “small” expansions that were sold in 8 card packs, also didn't use the same 3 and 4 tier rarity we use today. Mythic Rares aside, the sets Arabian Nights, Antiquities, The Dark, and Fallen Empires were not printed with a separate Rare sheet. Instead, certain cards were printed at different frequencies on both the common and uncommon sheet. So usually what we call the rares from these older sets were actually U1s meaning they appeared on the Uncommon sheet only once. U2s, U3s and U4s, the more frequently printed cards, are the ones we think of as the uncommons. But some commons also only appeared once on the common sheet. And these C1s, being significantly more infrequent than the other commons, were actually rarer than some of the uncommons. So what were they then, commons or uncommons? Complicating things even further, some cards appeared on the common and uncommon sheets in the same set! So defining the rarities of these older cards can be a real point of contention.  


But maybe we're also not sure if we want to have all these cards printed at common. In the transition to MTGO, certain older cards missed the equivalent common print run since they didn't appear online in their original sets but only in “Masters Editions” where cards were printed at rarities different than their paper printing. Cards like Dragon Engine got the boot from Rare down to Common. Other cards, like Fireball were way too powerful for common and got bumped up since they are clearly too overpowered at common for limited play. 

What I have listed for us today are the ten cards that have a paper common printing that are most notably absent from MTGO Pauper legality. Some are heinously overpowered for Pauper. Others? I'm not so sure. They might actually be safe.

So without further introduction, here are the ten:


Strip Mine


Ba-roken! This card is so busted it's legal only in Vintage where it is restricted. Legacy gets Wasteland. Modern gets Ghost Quarter and Tectonic Edge. Standard gets Field of Ruin?

So which of these would be a fair power level for Pauper? I could actually see Wasteland possibly being OK since it is a dead card versus two of the most dominant decks in the format, Stompy and Delver. But it would also be hard hate versus decks like Tron. And it could be pretty brutal versus midrange decks or decks with low land counts that rely on synergy like Affinity.

Strip Mine though? Not a chance.

Chance of Pauper reprint: 0%


Mishra's Factory


There are currently zero legal creature lands in Pauper. Unless you count Wind Zendikon on my Utopia Sprawled Forest.

So what is the correct amount of creature lands for Pauper? Probably zero, but let's explore the question.

While some lands, like Forbidding Watchtower are probably too weak to see Pauper play, nearly every other one would like be over the line. Either they would immediately become the best fixing in the format as strictly better guildgates, or decks would warp their mana bases for the opportunity to run them as resilient threats. Think of cards like Treetop Village, Raging Ravine or Mutavault. Powerful, flexible cards that warped the metagame of the formats where they were legal.

I'm going to guess that while Mishra's Factory is likely too strong for Pauper, it could actually be safe. Most likely it would exist in artifact based aggro decks like Cyborg White alongside metal craft creatures. It could also be a potent sideboard card even in the absence of Planeswalkers.

Meanwhile, Freed From The Real combo is drooling at the thought.

Chance of Pauper reprint: 15%




What makes this card fascinating to me is that it was recently tested for reprint during the development phase of Amonkhet block, but it was proven to be too powerful since it ruined limited. Instead, the best Standard got for a land that could damage creatures is Ifnir Deadlands at uncommon or Grasping Dunes at common.

I'm not convinced that this card is broken for Pauper. The questions are: 1. Is it so powerful that it would warp the format or 2. Would it actually see that much play? We already have Quicksand in the format and that only sees fringe play even though it can take out an X/2 ground attacker.

The differences with Desert vs Quicksand are: 1. Its repeatable; 2. It can stack in multiples; 3. It can hit fliers, notably Spellstutter Sprites, but, 4. It only hits at the end of combat, so it can't do much about a Ninja of the Deep Hours, and of course, 5. It deals damage instead of shrinking.

There are paper Pauper tournaments that allow Desert, and it seems like it's pretty safe as a midrange / sideboard card. Can a limited environment handle it at common? Maybe Masters 25. We’ll see!

Chance of Pauper reprint: 40%


Maze of Ith


Early magic experimented with a handful of lands that had abilities not related to producing mana. Some were wildly unplayable. Adventurers' Guildhouse comes to mind. Others are utterly broken and became Legacy and Vintage staples, namely Bazaar of Baghdad and The Tabernacle At Pendrell Vale.

While my favorite of these non-mana lands is Island of Wak-Wak, it's obvious that Maze of Ith is inherently more powerful. And if not for the accident that the two strongest cheaty threats in Legacy happen to be Legendary, Maze of Ith would be better than Karakas too. Sadly, untapping an Emrakul with the Annihilator 6 trigger on the stack doesn't do much to save you.

As to Pauper? I don't know. Against a go-wide deck, the maze may not be much more than a spot removal spell. And it doesn't do anything about Silhana Ledgewalker, even if it does help solve Kiln Fiend. I think it's over the line, but not broken. Good enough that I can see how paper Pauper tournaments tolerate the card but still busted enough that it's correct rarity should be rare or mythic rare and not C1.

Chance of Pauper reprint: 5%


Merchant Scroll


Merchant Scroll is a tutor, usually for combo pieces, and usually in Eternal formats like Legacy, Vintage, Commander or Highlander. It's rate, 2-mana only to search for a blue instant, isn't great. Except when the blue instants you're searching for are Ancestral Recall, Force of Will or Mental Misstep.

My suspicion is that Merchant Scroll would be completely fine in Pauper. Yes, its a tutor. But we already have Mystical Teachings plus transmute cards like Muddle the Mixture. Yes, it would give more tools to control decks. They could find their Ghostly Flicker, for example. But control decks already had no trouble filtering for cards. And maybe certain combo decks could get better since for example in Tireless Tribe combo, a Merchant Scroll can find Inside Out, Gush, or a a cheap counter like Spell Pierce, Hydroblast or Daze. Or its favorite, Circular Logic.

My assessment? This card is pretty safe. And it wouldn't be hard to port it to Pauper. 

Chance of Pauper reprint: 50%


Hymn To Tourach


This is another card that sees a ton of play wherever it is legal in Paper Pauper, and probably it is the single card that pushes Paper Pauper to adopt the MTGO banned list for Pauper legality rather than rely on whatever is eligible from paper printings.

Hymn to Tourach is brutal. Yes, its the same casting cost as Wrench Mind to nab two cards. But random is so much more powerful than choice of two. And without the artifact out-clause, Hymn To Tourach always hits. 

The argument then is, "Does black need Hymn To Tourach?" Once a terror of the Pauper metagame, the Mono Black Control archetype was an attrition monster, leveraging life to buy time and grinding the opponent to death on card advantage. But these days, MBC, or as it evolved, Mono-Black Devotion, is close to a dead archetype. Yeah, Hymn To Tourach would be a hell of a shot in the arm. But is it too good?

Chance of Pauper reprint: 20% 



In the recent Eternal Masters set, this former ABU common got the bump all the way up to rare. Considering that it is the only two-mana Stone Rain ever printed, regardless of color, I can see why this card was quickly recognized as a mistake when Revised edition changed the initial card pool. Turn-two Sinkhole your only land is one of the easiest ways to win a game. And like Strip Mine, its less about hating specific lands as pure efficiency.


So the moral of the story is that between Hymn To Tourach and Sinkhole, I highly doubt either one every sees a Pauper reprint. But as an academic point, is one safer than the other? Even though I think Hymn is a more powerful card, I actually think its safer than Sinkhole. The problem with Sinkhole is that it leads to too many non-games. Fun police, you're on alert. 

Chance of Pauper reprint: 5% 

(pic=Custodi Squire)


When Conspiracy was released, it provided a rare opportunity to introduce cards to Eternal formats while being able to bypass Standard and Modern. Yes, we get Commander sets. And Planechase. And I guess even Dual Decks are allowed to introduce cards at a new rarity. And now we even get Welcome Decks and Planewalker Decks that occasionally add a card not seen in the standard release card pool too. But Dual Decks and Commander Decks no longer are sold on MTGO. And cards from Commander sets, Planechase and Conspiracy only get to enter the card pool from things like Treasure Chests and maybe Legendary Cube Prize Packs. So not every Conspiracy card made it to MTGO.


Of the the ones that did, we got some significant ones. Clearly, the Monarch mechanic, as found on Thorn of the Black Rose and Palace Sentinels opened a whole new archetype. There was also that unusual "Will of the Council" mechanic that was meant to involve multiplayer voting but in a two player came usually just became a singular effect or static ability. For example, Coercive Portal should read: "During your upkeep, Draw a Card" since option B happens slim to never. Council's Judgment became white Maelstrom Pulse. And though I've never quite been able to make it work in Pauper, Tyrant's Choice has the potential to be a strictly better Flame Rift. Just not in the right color.


I don't think that (Custodi Squire) is too powerful for Pauper. Sure, its grindy. But so is Mulldrifter. And for all its fancy ability word text, it really should just read: W4: 3/3 Flier, ETB: Return a creature, artifact or enchantment to your hand. That's it. Is that overpowered?


 Chance of Pauper reprint: 65%



Goblin Grenade




What makes Goblin Grenade such a fascinating potential reprint is that it is so very close to another card, Reckless Abandon. And yes, there is a big difference between 5 damage and 4. But its also more restricting to run a card that requires one to sacrifice a specific creature instead of any creature. Reckless Abandon has its home in Red Deck Wins since the rate of 4 damage for one mana is fantastic. Sure, we already have Fireblast, which is 4 damage for zero mana, but that has a cap on how many you can effectively use in one game.

My assessment of Goblin Grenade is that it is the kind of card that if it saw print would immediately put Goblins back into Tier 1 status. I don't think it would be the homewrecker that Peregrine Drake was, but it might be on a similar power level to what Burning-Tree Emissary has done for Stompy.

It's been a long time since Goblins was a Tier 1 deck since they don't have MBC to foil anymore. I say, bring back Goblins! 

Chance of Pauper reprint: 25%  

High Tide


The last one on our list, and what do you know?--Yet another blue Legacy staple originally printed at common. Will they ever learn?

High Tide looks dangerous. Its a mana engine that just is asking to get abused. While we don't have Reset in Pauper, we do have a deck that likes to untap its Karoo lands with cards like Ghostly Flicker and Snap and generate infinite mana. No, it might not be the most efficient way to win, but slow combo decks can often be control decks that combo off once they have enough pieces. High Tide could be a Storm card, if all the Storm payoffs in the format hadn't already been banned. And yet the biggest restriction is that it only affects Islands. So in a world without true Dual Lands, how bad could it be?

It's tricky - either its utterly broken in half or its harmless. And I don't think we'd know until it was unleashed into the format. Maybe without Cloud of Faeries and Peregrine Drake its fine. Maybe the combination of Snap, Archaeomancer and Ghostly Flicker are enough.

Me? 'll take the over.



Chance of Pauper reprint: 15%

What do you think? Are there other paper commons you think should be set free and reintroduced into the Pauper wilderness?

Keep having fun out there,