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By: JustSin, Dave
Mar 23 2012 7:45am
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The Third Wheel

Hey there everyone!  I want to start off this week and apologize for my missed article last week.  Turns out, to keep a long story short, I had quite a case of pneumonia and figured it better to rest and recover instead of working on putting out an article just to put it out there that wasn't the usual level of quality I try to bring to the table.  That being said I am going to be making up for this with an article that is twice as awesome!  I've decided that there isn't enough coverage of the current Pauper metagame so I am now going to include a weekly "competitive corner" in my Pauper article.  Hopefully, this can bring in a bit of something for the casual player as well as the competitive types!

The Competitive Corner

In this first week of looking at the meta for competitive Pauper we're going to be looking at all Wizards provided Pauper tournaments that took place from March 5th to March 11th.  Real quick I want to remind people that any decks that had less than five showings have been classified as "rogue", but I will be listing them out as well.  Also feel free to correct me on the naming of a specific deck-type as I'm going off of what I've always deemed these decks as.  Here's a look at how the DE's played out during this week:

If it wasn't clear enough from the picture, the decks listed in red are the ones that went 4 - 0 during that particular event.

Now I did find myself involved in a discussion regarding the BnR of Pauper, which I'll cover later on, where someone did disagree with my classification of MUC.  For those who are interested, MUC, is my combination of 8post blue, Delver, Faeries, etc.  I see no reason to separate these because the decks are all so incredibly similar (with the obvious exception of 8post) and perform the same task.  I did give into the separating of TPPS/Storm and Fissure Storm because they work on the same mechanic, but run very different cards.  I think it makes great sense to separate these, but I fail to see a solid argument for breaking down each version of MUC into its individual sub-types.  I only mention this because this week was an overwhelming showing of MUC with 73 placings (the number two deck only had 57, almost 20 back).

Here are this week's "rogue" showings:

1. Orzhov Deck Wins - 2 Showings
2. 8-Post Green - 1 Showing
3. Rakdos Deck Wins - 1 Showing
4. MonoBlack Aggro - 1 Showing
5. IzzetAggro - 1 Showing

While I was playing through Pauper the other day something occurred to me.  If you look at the deck lists that we all know and love for competitive Pauper play we find there are a lot of strong decks that are mono-color.  Beyond that, we have decks in every color that are successful without adding in a second color.  However, this doesn't mean that you have to play single color.  In fact, we get several two-color decks that are constantly successful as well.  It becomes easy to bring in a second color thanks to Terramorphic Expanse and/or Evolving Wilds and nothing else.  We have even seen decks take advantage of the Pauper Ravnica duals and even the use of Trinket Mage in order to fetch out artifact lands.

So we know that two colors work well, but what happens when we try to push that boundary even more and hit three colors??

We can get technical on this thought and realize that there are some TPPS/Storm versions that use three colors, including Fissure Storm and technically Affinity uses multiple colors.  Beyond these we don't see anything productive done out of three color decks.  There have been a few cheaters here and there in the form of IzzetPost using a single Swamp or aggro pushing Mountains and Plains to pump Wild Nacatl, but these aren't true three-color decks.  When we look to other formats we find that there is almost an opposite effect, most decks are 3+ colors and very few are 2 or less.  So how does this come to be?  Why can't Pauper support three colors?  More importantly, can three colors be done successfully?

If we start by taking a look at why other formats can handle the color stretch better then we can come to an easy answer: better dual-color lands.  Wizards has made active efforts to print us new dual-color lands so that even as Standard, etc. rotates out we still have access to such producers.  We had some of the best choices when it came to the Ravnica shock lands, which got worse with the tribal activated ones in Lorwyn, and would come back to some of the great options we've gotten from the core sets.  The problem of integration comes into the Pauper restriction of "commons only".  Providing dual-color lands at a common rarity becomes a very tough thing to do.  Our options for lands that produce multiple colors come in a few simple types...

  • Ravnica's Pauper Duals - These guild cards are the best option for multiple colored mana production, but limit us to two colors.  The bigger downside is the requirement to return another land and "comes into play tapped".
  • Invasion Off-Color Sac Lands - These only see play as a mana base in Storm and even then they lost favor to the new MM lands.  The obvious hindrance here is the ability to use these only once and after a "comes into play tapped" requirement.
  • Rupture Spire - A decent land for producing any color mana, but it starts slow with a "comes into play tapped" and 1 colorless requirement.
  • Shimmering Grotto - While this allows us to produce any color it really isn't an additional land because you have to siphon 1 mana into it in order to change color.  You would be better off running Prophetic Prism in most cases, which allows card draw.

As you can see we're very limited and in order to get these lands into the common level rarity, they have to be slowed down with some type of restriction, usually "comes into play tapped".  We do have a few options for "fetch" lands with Terramorphic Expanse, Evolving Wilds, and the three color fetches we got in Shards, but even these restrict you to putting lands into play tapped.  If one were to run too many fetches or even the Pauper duals from Ravnica, then you'd be slowed down to a point where you wouldn't be able to keep up with the significantly faster decks running less colors.

Boros GarrisonGeothermal CreviceRupture SpireShimmering Grotto

Now like any other deck in any other format, Pauper does have the option to be running a bunch of land fetch and color ramp in order to fill out holes and make up for having to run mostly basic lands.  In fact, some of the best land fetch has been given to us at common and run outside of Pauper.  Cards like Farseek, Harrow, and Kodama's Reach have all had great impact during their release.  When it comes to seeing play in Pauper, we are more likely to see cards such as Rampant Growth, Reap and Sow, or Crop Rotation, but all three are very strong ramp spells.  Still we find ourselves stuck into two colors, but why?  Well the second opinion that I present you is the weakness of green as a supporting color.  Ok now I know some people might be like "dude you're stupid", but bare with me a minute here.

Now we know how strong green is when it comes to Infect and even the mono-color aggro deck has been making some strong showings.  I don't mean to downplay green at all, but the strength of these decks lies within the creature base.  If you run a deck with a heavy green creature base then you've got little reason to add more than a second color.  Take a look at the RG Aggro/Burn lists, which use the power of green creatures along with burn in order to keep pace.  Why would you want to add a third color?  If you run three colors and use green as simply land fetch then you're being ridiculous.  Just drop green and sit on two colors.  In my opinion, any deck that wants to run three colors isn't going to want one of those as green.

So this brings me to my final question... can it be done?  Well of course it can be done, but the result will not be a competitive list.  If you manage to follow my earlier Pauper articles I ran a deck that used Esper colors to do a lot of fun things thanks to Momentary Blink.



As you can see the list was a lot of fun and actually does have the ability to show (even if it isn't good odds).  As you can see the deck makes up for the fact that it sits at three colors thanks to fetches and the Ravnica lands.  Another way that this deck makes up for running three colors is through card draw.  While its not the same from running direct fetch through green, it works in a similar way allowing you to dig for lands as well as spells.  While this deck does suffer from the slowed speed of "comes into play tapped" that I talked about earlier, it still manages to hold well against a heavy aggro environment thanks to a number of maindeck kill spells.

Now there are a couple casual decks I have up my sleeve when it comes to three color and I'm going to feature them in the second part of this.  I had originally planned on throwing them in here, but don't want to ramble on for too long.  I do want to take a look at one; however where I tried to work in green fetch to make three colors work in one of the most popular sets of three... Jund.

To start off there were a few basic things I knew that I wanted to address with this deck.  The first thing that had to be addressed was there had to be some land fetch in green, but I didn't want to waste spots with simple fetch.  This meant that I wanted bodies to go with my fetch!  The next pitfall I wanted to avoid was being so flooded through with land that I couldn't do anything else.  It often happens that you add all this land fetch to match your colors, but then get so flooded that you can't do anything else.  So I knew my out for this had to be retrace and I would be able to get into both red and black with this.

Flame Jab Raven's Crime

This helped to narrow my land fetch down a bit more because now I wanted creatures that didn't just get me land, but put it in my hand instead of onto the field.  If I were to run something like Sakura-Tribe Elder, then I would end up in the land flood that I was trying to avoid.  Trying to keep my mana curve low as well I went with Sylvan Ranger and Yavimaya Elder.  The next trick I wanted was to bring back the shroud creatures that have been so powerful in Blastoderm and Jolrael's Centaur.  More importantly I wanted to run the Blastoderm with outs for avoiding his leaving the board.

Horned Kavu Okiba-Gang Shinobi

Add in a heavy land base including the fetch Evolving Wilds and some kill spells and this is what we have...


Pauper Jund
A Deck By: JustSin
4 Blastoderm
3 Horned Kavu
4 Jolrael's Centaur
1 Okiba-Gang Shinobi
3 Sylvan Ranger
3 Wickerbough Elder
2 Yavimaya Elder
20 cards

Other Spells
3 Echoing Decay
2 Flame Jab
4 Lightning Bolt
2 Raven's Crime
4 Terminate
15 cards
4 Evolving Wilds
10 Forest
5 Mountain
6 Swamp
25 cards
Horned Kavu


Now I used only four fetches and zero Ravnica lands in an attempt to avoid the tapped pitfall that I feel is the biggest thing holding back Paupers 3+ color decks.  For the most part I tried my best to avoid too many spells that sat on double colored cost in order to try and keep in line and avoid having a handful of cards that you just cannot play.

Check out the quick deck video here...

Example Game 1
Opponent's Deck: GW Aggro
Video Link: Click Here!

Opening Hand:
ForestFlame JabEvolving WildsHorned KavuHorned KavuForestEchoing Decay

So it was a solid opening hand thanks to the Evolving Wilds allowing me to get a Mountain.  My opponent starts early with a couple elves and land ramp while I get stuck in land flood.  Thankfully I have Flame Jab and pass many turns killing a Llanowar Elves and Elvish Visionary until I can finally play a Wickerbough Elder to stall the damage of my opponent's Ondu Giant.  I kill off a Goldmeadow Harrier to keep things stalled and I finally start getting momentum moving in my favor after finding a Raven's Crime as well.  Using Sylvan Ranger I am able to keep grabbing lands for my retrace spells and returning thanks to Horned Kavu.  My opponent quickly finds himself at 5 life and sitting across from a Wickerbough Elder, two Horned Kavu, and a Blastoderm and decides to concede.

Example Game 2
Opponent's Deck: MBC
Video Link: Click Here!

Opening Hand:
ForestJolrael's CentaurHorned KavuSwampWickerbough ElderSwampSylvan Ranger

A good starting hand since we have the green mana to start fetching land off Sylvan Ranger right away.  Since my opponent is running discard I use every opportunity to keep extra lands in my hand so that I have something I can throw away, which is where Yavimaya Elder comes in good use.  Additionally, the stars of the show will be my shroud creatures so I can avoid Tendrils of Corruption or Corrupt.  My Jolrael's Centaur goes down on turn 3 and I swing into Liliana's Specter trying to force a block.  Next turn I get my first Yavimaya Elder into play and trade it with a Phyrexian Rager for lands to throw away to the discard.  After getting some discard of my own in I get a Blastoderm onto the field and my opponent can't find answers to my shroud creatures thanks to Sylvan Ranger taking a Geth's Verdict.

Now there isn't a lot of options when it comes to making changes to this deck and still sticking to the basic focus.  You can feel free to increase the number of land fetch cards, but if you do I would start by adding a fourth Sylvan Ranger since it fits the curve well.  Any other addition will require the "into your hand" attachment so that you can get the most out of the retrace spells.  This includes Borderland Ranger, Civic Wayfinder, and Krosan Tusker.

There are other great creatures out there that can be brought in to work in conjunction with the retrace ability.  Since you're throwing away a lot of lands you can use creatures like Cartographer or Tilling Treefolk to bring those lands back and keep using spells like Flame Jab over and over.  These also work well with the cycling lands, but don't overload the deck with those or you'll find yourself back in the "comes into play tapped" area that we were trying to avoid.

When it comes to the retrace mechanic we were given very few options, getting only a single retrace spell per color, though they all come in at common.  I really felt that only Flame Jab and Raven's Crime were the best of these because the others come at a much higher cost.  Oona's Grace has gotten decent use and can make a good showing in MUC, but since we're sticking to Jund colors that doesn't do us much good.  The only one missing from the deck was Monstrify, which I feel is way overcosted.  We've seen a lot of good pump spells in Pauper and there are many others I would go for instead.

Bonus Content!!!

Nothing killer in this week's bonus content, but while I was writing this article I got the juice to play the Esper Aggro deck once again.  When I sat down in the Tournament Practice room I came across an opponent playing a deck that I will talk about later, Tilling Thunder, which also features fun with lands in Jund colors.  So I recorded the replay to give you a look at how another player approaches the three color dilemma.

Well that is a lot to take in after the extra competitive information, but hopefully it will give people a better insight into what is currently being played (at least successfully).  Join me next week for more Pauper explorations and meta-game break downs!

- JustSin


Wow man, that's impressive. by cole11 at Tue, 04/24/2012 - 14:47
cole11's picture

Wow man, that's impressive. Thanks. Looking forward to your Pauper explorations..

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