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By: SpikeBoyM, Alex Ullman
May 18 2015 2:25pm
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Part 1: Powerful Cards


I consume a lot of Magic content. Between reading articles, listening to podcasts, watching videos, and engaging in discussions (both in real life and on the internet) about the game. I especially love exploring theory and trying to understand the why that influences the how. One such framework, advocated at times by Michael J. Flores and Patrick Chapin is to simply play the most powerful cards.

Sometimes this is easier than others. Obviously in a format with excellent mana (see Legacy and Modern) the ability to play a multi-chromatic mana base allows decks to dip into third or fourth colors with ease. Standard in the wake of Khans of Tarkir has revolved around Siege Rhino and decks warping their lands to be able to cast the latest Best Creature.

Building decks in this manner is like trying to hit a moving target. The goal is to first identify the shape of the metagame and then try to discern the best possible spells at each point on the curve to win different fights. Clearly what is Best yesterday may be The Worst tomorrow, but the adept brewer will be able to read the tea leaves and hit the target like so many Hawkeye’s.

What is the advantage of playing powerful cards? Your top decks are better and each spell packs more punch. The downside, of course, is if you were wrong. It happens to the very best - the wrong read on the metagame and all every sweet spell is instead flat soda. The upside, though, of having every card come with more impact than those of your opponents cannot be understated. 

Part 2: Galvanic Blast 

As Pauper moved on from the Treasure Cruise ban Mono-Black Control with Chittering Rats and Gray Merchant of Asphodel asserted itself as the top deck. While its strength has flagged some recently, MBC continues to help define the current Pauper landscape. Creatures with strong enters-the-battlefield triggers make removal only so effective since kill spells only work against the body and not the effect. Now this does not mean that removal is bad, simply that the cards used have to line up exceptionally well.

For a long time Flame Slash was the go to for getting rid of pesky creatures. Only one threat - Gurmag Angler- can effectively dodge the Rise of the Eldrazi sorcery. When the format revolved around Treasure Cruise the important part of taking something away was simply doing it on the cheap. Now the end goal is to get a creature off the board as soon as possible to optimize mana use on your own turn.

Four toughness is still a magic number and cards like Grasp of Darkness should be seeing more play for their ability to plow something away at instant speed. Flame Slash is still a fine card, but not the powerhouse it once was. I have been advocating Galvanic Blast as a way to merge the efficacy of Flame Slash with the speed of Lightning Bolt. While Burst Lightning may be more reliable the five mana is far too much. Galvanic Blast does make some very specific demands on deck construction, which means that if the goal is to run this Best, it will shape the entire deck. 

Part 3: Synergy

Pauper is a format defined by commons and in many ways is defined by the mechanics that help to shape limited. While the power level of commons has been reduced in recent years some can still do incredibly powerful things when given the right context. Galvanic Blast is such a card. While its optimal mode is well above curve - four damage for a single red mana - it requires the presence of three artifacts to function at that level. Some context based cards do not have the power level required to warp a deck around its zenith. Galvanic Blast is not one of these cards. In its final form Galvanic Blast is one of the best spells you can cast in Pauper.

So assuming we are building a deck that can optimize Galvanic Blast, what are the other options? Well, cards like Carapace Forger come to mind, which leads us directly to Affinity. Affinity is a powerful deck that leverage Galvanic Blast like none other. It requires synergy to be at its very best with Artifact Lands enabling Black Lotus like plays.

Affinity is a great deck. It is vulnerable to hate and yet still performs better than almost every other heavily played deck. The question is not if Galvanic Blast can be played, then, but what other decks can call it home. 

Part 4: Parallel Design 

Every so often a White Weenie deck pops up that tries to use Artifact Lands and cards like Ardent Recruit and Vault Skirge to create a sleek aggressive machine. The strategy hinges on Ardent Recruit acting as a three power one drop and Court Homunculus pulling its best Nettle Sentinel impersonation. Sometimes these decks run a second color of lands to help hit Metalcraft. Most of the time there was no payoff to running the second color other than hitting three artifacts.

Now if Galvanic Blast is one of the Bests (in an ideal world), so is Ardent Recruit. Three power for one mana should not be underestimated. It just so happens to go in the same deck as Galvanic Blast. I started working on a Boros Metalcraft deck a few weeks ago and then this happened: 

There are many things I like about this deck. Galvanic Blast, Ardent Recruit, and Auriok Sunchaser are all powerful cards. A Porcelain Legionnaire carrying a Bonesplitter is just about unbeatable in combat. Ichisuka’s list, however, suffers from something at its very core - it ignores Galvanic Blast.

The goal of any Galvanic Blast deck should be to deal 20 as quickly as possible. While the Blast is incredibly flexible in that it can kill creatures, its ability to take out 20% of a life total is hard to properly state. As such, there are a lot of dead cards in the above deck. The interaction between Glint Hawk and Prophetic Prism is nice, but the result is tempo negative - it is not an investment in damage but rather one in moving pieces around. When your goal is to deal 20 damage, can you really waste time investing to sleights of hand?

The solution then is to try and understand the field and then make sure you are able to win the game. If MBC is a threat, then cards like Squadron Hawks become better in that they help to nullify removal. If you can cast red spells in your deck then there better be a great reason you aren’t running Lightning Bolt. The solution is not trying to be everything - it is trying to perfect one thing. 

Part 5: Boros Bests 

The principles behind this deck are tried and true. While you are technically a two color deck almost all of your creatures are either white mana reliant or colorless. Splatter Thug is a stand in and will become Sickleslicer once the living weapon becomes legal. A streamlining of colored costs allows this deck to deploy threats consistently which is key.

In place of cards that do not advance the game state we have cheap removal Lightning Bolt, versatile trinkets Pyrite Spellbomb, and a long game plan Cenn's Enlistment. The abundance of burn in the deck also has temporal implications. The deck is able to go to the dome for 32 damage. An Ardent Recruit can often deal the first six damage and the red spells can make the final few points rather easy to come by. The sheer amount of reach in this list can end the game from nowhere.

The thing I love about this deck is how well it matches up. Its suite of one drops is the best in the game. Ardent Recruit and Court Homunculus can very easily deal tons of damage and Vault Skirge can change the texture of the game. Porcelain Legionnaire is hard to beat in combat alone, let alone if it carries equipment. Squadron Hawk provides a steady stream of threats and Auriok Sunchaser is a reasonable clock in its own right.

The reality of playing this deck is that it is prone to variance. Between Ancient Den, Great Furnace, and a bevy of one drops it is very easy to enable Metalcraft on turn three and turn two is not outside the possibility realm. It is realistic that there should be a copy of Springleaf Drum somewhere in this deck just to help with the strong starts. That being said there are going times when the deck just does not fire on all cylinders. The question becomes then, is it worth it? 

Part 7: Repeating Myself 

Is Boros Metalcraft worth it? I believe so. The ability to trump your opponent’s plays on turns one and two sets up a game state when you are the aggressor. When every card drawn can become another nail in the coffin then the deck is working. Sometimes your 1/1s will stay small and that is a reality. The advantage of being able to cast Galvanic Blast and attack with Ardent Recruit though means more wins in the long run.

Boros Metalcraft has problems in metagames heavy on Mono-Black Control and Izzet Blitz. While the former is not unwinnable - you are simply faster than they are and can interact with their board - Izzet Blitz is a true uphill fight. All of my games have been close and the key may be in taking a hard control stance, but sideboards aren’t big enough for that swap.

So if you want to take a shot at playing some of the best cards in Pauper, I can heartily endorse this deck. It’s not the only deck full of trumps, but it is a fun one. 

Keep slingin’ commons-

-Alex 

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