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By: Arctic_Ghost, Arctic_Ghost
Feb 06 2023 12:18pm
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When Dimir Initiative was deck, most of the player base for Pauper wasn’t too happy. The deck could enter into the dungeon as fast as turn 1 and it did so quite consistently. This made for some boring game play that a large number of players hated. The Dimir version is dead, but mtgo grinder Medvedev did pretty darn well with an Abzan version I think you will all be interested in seeing.

The deck list we are going to talk about today took 9th place (man that hurts) in the Pauper challenge that took place on 1/21/2023 and was piloted by the mtgo grinder, Medvedev. Alright, let’s not waste anymore time and rock!


Ornithopter – It might seem weird to have this in the deck, but Ornithopter serves a great purpose that we will discuss later.

Shambling Ghast – Ghast is quite a good creature in its own right. It either gives -1/-1 to a creature, which there are plenty of creatures in Pauper with 1 toughness to kill, or it gives you a Treasure to ramp a little bit with. Ghast is in this deck for much of the same reason Ornithopter is however, which is to be fodder for a better purpose.

Crypt Rats – Board wipes are always a good thing to have access too and this deck can generate quite a bit of mana to use Crypt Rats ability with. Just remember, Rats also deals damage to you so be careful with your life total.

Gurmag Angler – Although we only see one copy, you can power out Angler as quick as turn 1 in this deck and against some archetypes, that can be more than enough. Having a 1 of Angler doesn’t seem crucial to to the archetype, but it isn’t a bad win condition to have.

Avenging Hunter and Goliath Paladin – Here are the true win conditions of the deck. The point of this archetype is to power one of these 2 creatures out as quickly as you possibly can. If you could play 5 copies of one of these instead of the Angler, I am fairly certain you would. The best part about these 2 creatures is that they also do a good job of controlling the red zone.

Culling the Weak and Dark Ritual – Here are your rituals for the deck. While Dark Ritual is self explanatory, Culling the Weak is what makes Ornithopter and Shambling Ghast so good in this deck because they are the perfect fodder for it.

Deadly Dispute – One of the best cards in the format period it is no surprise to see it here since you have 8 creatures that are perfect fodder.

Unexpected Fangs – Use this on one of your win condition creatures and against some archetypes it will be the end very quickly. You can also use it on Crypt Rats and gain life off of its board wipe ability. It can be quite the good combo against something like Burn or Kuldotha Red.

Snuff Out – You are a tap out deck and Snuff Out is usually a free to cast removal spell. Just be careful as it will cost you 4 life which is not cheap.

Lotus Petal – Although expensive, I think Petal is fairly crucial to this deck as without it you lose a lot of speed potential. This deck needs to be able to go off consistently on turn 1 and 2. This archetype also needs to mulligan well. Without Petal, there isn’t much you can replace it with that will give you the same effect.

Springleaf Drum – Turns your fodder creatures into Birds of Paradise which helps quite a bit when trying to go fast.

The Manabase

Peat Bog – I think this land is very crucial to this archetype as being an Ancient Tomb type of lands helps speed you up tremendously.

Vault of Whispers – Good fodder for Deadly Dispute.

The rest of the manabase we see are basic lands consisting of 1 Forest, 1 Plains and 3 Swamps. I personally think this manabase is perfect and moving forward I believe it should stay as is.

The Sideboard

Chainer's Edict and Devour Flesh - Edict effects are always a good thing to have access to and Bogles can be quite popular as well as be problematic. There are plenty of other archetypes where Edict effects are good as well.

Duress – Great for when facing control decks.

Nihil Spellbomb – Graveyard hate is always a good thing to have access to. I would like to see a second copy, but usually 1 is all you need during a game anyway.

Shrivel – Board wipes are very much needed these days and always a good thing to have.

Thorn of the Black Rose – Against slower archetypes where you do not get attacked much if at all, being able to become the Monarch and draw cards is just a really powerful thing to do.

Weather the Storm – Say no to Burn decks today with your trust gain life spell!

Verdict and Conclusion

I think we may see a good contender for an Initiative comeback and as much as they upset some players, I am sure there are players that have a big smile on their face right now as they read this.

This version is much like its Dimir/Mono Black counterpart from last year and much like how you would play this archetype in Legacy, your opening hand is extremely crucial in my opinion.

In the Dimir or Mono Black version, you constantly went off on turn 1 with a creature that is a very good blocker and makes it easy for you to keep the Initiative. The main difference between this archetype and the old ones is that this version has a better chance of going off turn 2 consistently then it does turn 1, but it is just as effective.

That 1 turn difference is pretty big however as it means Kuldotha Red could get a bit under you, Affinity gets an extra turn to set up, the same goes for Tron and there are other decks as well. However, gaining the Initiative on turn 2 with a big creature to back it up/put a quick clock on the opponent is still powerful and remember this deck was just shy of a top 8 finish or maybe better. I also want to point out that with Unexpected Fangs, you have a damn good chance of giving most aggro decks (notably Burn and Kuldotha Red) a very hard time, which is good right now in the current meta.

As I said, this archetype is very opening hand dependent and that can be a good thing as it teaches players proper discipline for mulligan choices. This archetype is also about proper sequencing, another good trait for players to learn. I think this deck is also a good way to teach people good habits in magic, especially for newer players to the game.

As far as the list itself, I think this is exactly where you start. I don’t think there is much room for innovation on the main deck, but I also don’t think this list is set it stone or fully optimized either. I look forward to seeing what players do with this archetype in the future. One card I was upset to not see in this deck is Ephemerate as I think it helps speed up the deck a tiny bit, but that is just a theory and it could be unnecessary for the meta you are trying to beat.

Do I think you should play this deck? I think there is a lot of potential here and getting 10th place in a challenge is not easy so the deck definitely has merit. As of right now, whether it is a league, local event or challenge I would say yes, this deck is worth playing. How consistently will it do well and bring good results? Time will tell on that one.

I would also like to give credit to Medvedev for getting 10th with this archetype but I would also like to point out that they are a very good player, so while this deck might have worked for them, if it doesn’t work for you, I think all that means is you need more practice with the deck.

However, with all this being said, as always, do remember my words are not gospel. I will always encourage you to try a deck that I bring you despite my personal feelings. Remember that results will vary and always remember to practice!

Would you like to compete in a free Pauper tournament with some great prizes? Head on over to Gatherling.com on Tuesday nights at 8pm EDT and play in our weekly Pauper Classic Tuesday's event! Join the chat #PCT to chat with us and feel free to find most of the competitors on Discord!

Thank you so much for reading. Best of luck to you in your next tournament and I’ll catch you all next time!