JXClaytor's picture
By: JXClaytor, Joshua Claytor
Apr 23 2018 12:00pm
Login or register to post comments

Ice Cauldron

New sets are exciting times for brewers of all formats, and Dominaria is no exception! In spite of its Legacy Lite reputation, Pauper as a formatis still affected by the release of new Standard legal sets adding new commons to our card pool. Though the Masters level sets are notorious for being far more significant to shaking up the format with their rarity downshifts and freedom from NWO, we have witnessed that the last few Standard legal sets have still managed to add a handful of playable if not staple cards to the Pauper format, including cards like Prosperous Pirates, Firebrand Archer, Gearseeker Serpent and Pulse of Murasa.
So what new Dominaria cards have the best chance of breaking into Pauper? And which ones, if any, have the chance to become a real staple? Let me run down the cards I think have the best chance of realistically showing up in a 5-0 decklist and the decks where they might fit the best.
Cards That Get There

Divest - Strictly better Ostracize has a lot of potential. While it is true that the ability to hit both artifacts ​and ​ creatures decreases the likelihood of a miss, the biggest reason black doesn’t play Ostracize is that it just doesn’t need it! Black has goo gobs of ways to kill creatures, so much so that decks like Mono Black Devotion that try to win via card advantage by keeping the board clear of creatures even forsake Doom Blade, the quintessential black kill spell and Snuff Out, the “free” Terror. But Divest has another enormous advantage over Ostracize beyond its reduced miss rate: it gives black another weapon against one of the two card types that black can’t answer. With the exception of the color breaking and Pauper-illegal Gate to Phyrexia, there are zero ways for black to answer a non-creature artifact once it’s on the battlefield. As is true in most formats, black’s best disruption is discard. So adding Divest to the already tried-and-true Duress gives black a great addition to its discard toolbox especially to fight one of the two card types it can’t handle.
Best home: Mono Black Devotion. Not even as a sideboard card, but a maindeck card. The ability to game 1 force your opponent to discard a Prophetic Prism, Expedition Map, a Chromatic Star or even an Ancient Den is added great disruptive flexibility to “Discard target creature.”

Adventurous Impulse: This one just feels so obvious. As many of noted, it’s the green Ponder. Or more accurately it’s almost exactly the card Oath of Nissa: search your top three, choose a creature, land (or planeswalker), put the rest on bottom. Currently in Pauper Green’s best card selection tools are Commune with Nature which only hits creatures and Ancient Stirrings which only hits colorless cards, a card that sees the majority of its play in Tron. This is new territory for green decks and while I am skeptical Stompy will want it, the card looks like a fantastic addition to bigger green decks.
Best home: Slivers. Adventurous Impulse looks like a godsend to Slivers: it gives you a relevant Turn-1 play, lets you find your missing mana or digs you three deeper to find one of your 12 “lords” which stand out by far as the best cards in the deck. 

Unwind: This feels like the most dangerous card in the set. It’s a fine line: Cloud of Faeries had to be banned because it was both the the cause of the most brutal opening sequence in Pauper, which was Mono Blue Delver playing CoF on Turn 2 and passing the Turn indefinitely leaving up two blue mana for Counterspell, Daze or Spellstutter Sprite, and also CoF was the set up card for Pauper’s best long running combo deck, Esper Familiars. On the other hand, Rewind, which untaps four lands, only sees fringe play and is totally safe. Then Peregrine Drake, a seemingly innocuous 2 / 3 flier that untapped five lands as an ETB entered the format from Eternal Masters and broke Pauper in two. The summer of Peregrine Drake was so oppressive that folks would regularly maindeck Pyroblasts or even splash Red in their decks just to run the card. And Pauper participation was temporarily cut in half.
So where does Unwind fall? Will be be totally safe and harmless like Rewind because it is stuck being played as a reactive card? Or will its ease of casting lead to broken turns where the caster not only gets to play the spell for free but untap lands and net mana in the exchange allowing them to play a free Mystical Teachings or Forbidden Alchemy off the exchange? All previous cards with the untapping lands mechanic eventually got broken because of being able to combine them with Pauper’s “Karoo” lands, like Dimir Aqueduct, spell cost reduction cards like Nightscape Familiar or the Tron lands to generate surplus mana and loop cards like Mnemonic Wall plus Ghostly Flicker to set up an arbitrary kill. Except Rewind. So will Unwind, the new Negate laden with the notorious free spell mechanic break Pauper again, or will it be just another tool in the control toolkit? 
Best home: Dinrova Tron loves to set up its board lock by tutoring via the graveyard. So being able to Mystical Teachings for Unwind to untapping three Tron lands or use the mana from Unwind to flashback a Mystical Teachings or a Forbidden Alchemy from the extra 7 mana looks like a huge power upgrade that I would confidently say that Tron with Unwind should be the most impactful upgrade for Pauper from all of Dominaria.
Cards That Didn’t Quite Get There

Ghitu Lavarunner: Because this card has the potential to be a 2 /2 Red creature with haste for a single Red mana, I’ve heard a number of people call this card, “The Pauper Goblin Guide”. I don’t buy it. Not only does Red (and Green) have multiple other 2/2s for one mana, including a whole deck built around them in Red Deck Wins, but the Magical Christmasland scenario of being able to drop this card on Turn-1 or even Turn-2 as 2 / 2 with haste just sounds so unlikely it’s absurd to compare the two. The other reason I don’t buy it is because the deck that is most interested in one mana Red 2 / 2s, which is RDW, also runs 30+ creatures leaving precious little room for spell slots to turn on Ghitu Lavarunner. Pass.

Artificer's Assistant  I admit that this a pretty neat effect, being able to repeatedly scry whenever you cast an artifact, even if it won’t trigger from playing artifact lands like Seat of the Synod. And I hear rumors of an in-development Pauper “Eggs” deck that works by looping cheap or free sacrificial artifacts like Conjurer's Bauble. But as for current decks? I don’t see it. Affinity doesn’t improve from running a 2 mana 1 / 1 flier even if it grants them three free scry opportunities a game. Tron doesn’t need it either. So who is running this card? More of a build around that a complement piece.
My Thoughts on the B & R Non-Announcement:
I really feel that Pauper has a significant color balance problem and could use a shake-up. While no single card is as egregious an offender as Peregrine Drake has been, let alone past problem cards like Cranial Plating, Invigorate or Cloudpost, the reality of Pauper as an Eternal format is that Blue’s toolbox, especially when it comes to card selection cantrips, far exceeds the power of the other colors in being able to establish consistency in ones draws. 
As Senior Pauper writer Alex Ullman pointed out in last week’s controversial assessment of the health of the Pauper format, 7 of the 10 most played cards in Pauper are blue, and the most played creature in all of Pauper is Augur of Bolas, a card that nearly always pairs with the card selection trifecta of Ponder, Preordain and Gush
Were I to pick one card to ban just to realign the power level of Pauper, I would choose to ban Preordain. My reasoning is that a card like Preordain is just too good at fixing bad hands that blue decks running the card may as well say that they’re getting a free mulligan. Preordain lets decks like Mono Blue Delver cheat on their land count and still hit all the land drops they choose to on time. It even lets these same decks skip on lands when they already have enough to operate. This kind of card advantage, even it is disguised as card selection, just adds too much of an advantage to blue decks that I doubt we'll ever have a balanced format were that to be to be our goal. Even though a deck like Boros Monarch is able to succeed in a world dominated by blue, that deck only succeeds because it makes so many concessions to prey on blue decks like Izzet Delver. The success of Boros Monarch in a blue dominated metagame doesn’t defy the rule of Blue decks, but it only confirms the power of these Gush - Augur of Bolas - Preordain decks to warp the metagame around them.  
Keep having fun out there,