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By: Arctic_Ghost, Arctic_Ghost
Sep 14 2022 9:02am
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When the Adventures in the Forgotten Realms set came out, it brought along something really cool with it. It gave the people of Magic a way to venture into dungeons and claim their rewards. However, it didn’t really bring any of it to Pauper in the form of cards that were worth playing. Finally, with the slow release of new cards from Baldur's Gate, we have a way to venture into the dungeon in Pauper and it is taking the format by a bit of a storm.

 

The main point of the deck we will be looking at is to cast a creature that gives you the Initiative as quickly as possible. You can cast one of your creatures as quickly as turn 1 if you get the right opening hand. The Initiative is just like the Monarch which means if you take combat damage, you lose it to your opponent. The difference is, instead of drawing cards at the end of turn and possibly bricking off, you now venture into the Undercity Dungeon on your upkeep and every time you take the Initiative as well.



 

The list we will be looking at today got 1st place in the Pauper Challenge posted on 9/12/2022 and was piloted by Notgood (A.K.A Zimplfy). The list is extremely spicy and it is time to join my party as we venture into the dungeon. Lets rock this!


Vicious Battlerager – Here is our first creature that ventures us into the Undercity Dungeon. This one is quite powerful as it has a lot of toughness and if it becomes blocked by anything, your opponent loses 5 life. That 5 life is not cheap which makes Battlerager a lot scarier than it should be.

Aarakocra Sneak – Here is our second creature. This one doesn’t do anything too impressive compared to Battlerager, but Sneak has flying which makes a great creature on defense.

Underdark Explorer – This is our final creature for giving the Initiative. Although this one costs 5 mana, it hits extremely hard and has Menace which means it should be good at getting in for combat damage if need be.

Simian Spirit Guide – Whatever helps you cast your creatures quickly. I would almost consider playing 5 if I could.

Gurmag Angler – Angler is just a good big creature to put pressure on your opponent and you can get it out extremely quickly.

Mulldrifter – The final reward for venturing into the Undercity is getting a creature into play with 3 counters on it. Mulldrifter is and will always be a good option for almost any deck that plays blue.

Crypt Rats – Board wipes are always a good thing but this one also can finish your opponent off.

Dark Ritual, Cabal Ritual and Lotus Petal – As I said, you want whatever you can do to turbo out your creatures as quickly as possible. Remember, you get to venture into the Dungeon every time you take the Initiative as well as your upkeep.

Cast Down and Snuff Out – Here are your removal spells for the deck. Do be careful however as the 4 life you pay to make Snuff Out free is not cheap.

Lose Focus – This is a great piece of counter magic as in this deck it can be just as good as actual Counterspell if not better.

The Manabase

The Manabase is not all the special but it does play some specific lands I don’t think the archetype would work without. You have 11 basics, but then you also have 4 copies each of Peat Bog and Saprazzan Skerry. In my opinion the lands from Mercadian Masques are a must as they are the best lands for you to turbo your creatures out. The only lands you could replace them with are the Sacrifice lands from Invasion, but they only can be used once and are in my opinion nowhere near as good.

The Sideboard

Arms of Hadar – Every archetype can take advantage of a board wipe these days and while this one is not the most powerful, but it is easy on the mana and does a good job.

Blue Elemental Blast – Say not today to our red overlords.

Dispel – This is great at helping you resolve your spells or protecting your creatures from removal. I like only 2 copies as you don’t necessarily need multiples early and don’t want them to be stranded in your hand doing nothing.

Gut Shot – You are tapping out in this deck a lot so have more removal that is technically free to cast is very helpful.

Unexpected Fangs – This on the right creature can just outright win games against certain archetypes.

Verdict and Final Thoughts

I am going to tell you all this right now. Expect to see this Initiative creatures and/or Initiative archetypes to be heavily popular and be around for quite some time until they are either forced out of the meta or banned.

I will be looking at other versions of the Initiative decks, but this one caught my eye because I love me some combo. I like that Zimp basically said forget control or a midrange aspect and just go straight to the point. This is a snowball strategy that rewards you for resolving multiple creatures that give you the Initiative quickly and you can resolve multiples of them in one big turn, which I think should be a main strategy of this deck. You also get to play Snuff Out, which makes it so tapping out does not leave your defenses down completely and having Lose Focus can help you out tremendously with anything problematic.

The Initiative isn’t unbeatable, but the Undercity Dungeon does something that the Monarch technically doesn’t do and that is you will brick less often because unlike the Monarch, the Undercity always gives you something to do. The other reason that it is very powerful are the creatures you get to play. Both Sneak and Battlerager are excellent on defense and Explorer is very good at attacking, not to mention it can finish the game rather quickly.

I will say that this version is high risk high reward as you do have a lot of rituals that don’t do much. However with that being said you should almost always have an opening hand that has a creature to play. I say almost always because magic is a game that does have a lot of luck. Not every opening hand will be worth keeping.

Do I think you should play this deck? I will say yes as I think this particular strategy is quite good as you are extremely fast and fairly resilient to aggro strategies. This build is also a combo deck as you can hold back creatures, then resolve multiples of them on turn and just venture into the Undercity multiple times so you get all the rewards quickly. This archetype rewards you for both being fast or slow depending on the matchup and situation.

On paper in my opinion, this deck might have a difficult time beating control strategies such as Faeries or Caw-Gate. I say this because it isn’t hard for them to take the Initiative and keep it by backing it up with their own removal and/or counter magic, but this of course is just in theory and not necessarily how the games will play out. I also do not claim to be an expert so take my opinions in this article as a whole with a grain of salt.

Against aggro strategies such as Burn, Stompy or even Affinity, you should be fine as you have a lot of defense. However, it is possible for them to go around you while also dealing with your creatures. As I said, I don’t think this archetype is unbeatable, but it can be extremely fast or it can play slow and be a combo deck.

However, it did win a Pauper Challenge. This means everyone knows about it, so people will be playing packing strategies to beat it. Just keep that in mind moving forward.

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!