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By: Pujols_Teh_Destroyer, Christopher Oliver
Feb 15 2016 1:00pm
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The pauper format is certainly in flux.

If you haven’t checked the format out yet, I highly recommend it, for both those who have played for a while, and for the folks who are still relatively new to the game; Pauper is a format full of diverse, interactive decks on a cheap budget with something for everyone.  Tempo decks, control decks, value engines, big-mana and even combo are all viable in the current metagame.  Alex Ullman provided a great guide for those getting into the format here that showcases the numerous archetypes available, pre-Cloud of Faeries ban, of course.

Leading up to Oath of the Gatewatch, I was playing very little Pauper on MTGO.  My focus was primarily on Standard and Pauper in paper, attempting to reignite my love for competitive Magic on a more face-to-face level while slowly growing the local Pauper community and raise awareness of my favorite format.  My Friday nights had transitioned from casting Firebolt and Counterspell to Crackling Doom and Mantis Rider. 

Mantis Rider

Man, I love casting Mantis Rider.

With Oath now available and Cloud of Faeries now among the history of the format instead of the forefront, I’m back to playing more on MTGO.  The fall of Esper Familiar has certainly opened up the top of the metagame for a combination of new decks an old favorites. 

Affinity, Delver, Kuldotha Jeskai and UB Control appear to have the top tier of Pauper in hand.  Below those decks, Mono Black, Kiln Fiend decks, Hexproof, Tron and UB Angler lists run rampant, putting up results, but often not having the consistency of the Tier-1 lists.  With so many moving pieces in the metagame, new brews have found a bit of breathing room, capable of having game against certain top-tier decks, without simply losing to others. 

Personally, I’m rather fond of the Kuldotha Jeskai lists, or even the Dark Jeskai Kitty lists, if one can stretch the mana available as far as possible.

This list is what I played at the last PCT.  Dark Jeskai in Standard.  Dark Jeskai in Pauper. 

 

 

As you can see, the mana is slow, but the format has also shifted into a lower gear.  The life you gain off of the deck’s numerous gain-lands is not irrelevant, though, as aggressive decks still exist and are very good at punishing slower lists.  Burn, Stompy and Goblins are all elements of the Pauper metagame that have to be taken into consideration under a new light with the recent shift. 

The slower mana is also adventurous with the addition of black to the colors.  Kuldotha Jeskai was already a bold stretch from the traditional Boros Kitty lists, splashing blue for Mulldrifter, Perilous Research and Izzet Chronarch.  With the blue decks already playing one-of utility lands such as Bojuka Bog and Mortuary Mire, having access to Prophetic Prism provided an easier time stretching into the fourth color.  The payoff comes in the form of Chainer’s Edict being a viable spell, making the Hexproof matchup, which was terrible, much closer and providing access to the format’s best ground-pounder in Gurmag Angler.

Personally, I find that the access to black helps in the sideboard the most, with cards such as Duress and Disturbed Burial being very real factors in the slower grinds in the mirror or against control decks. 

Matchups

Mulldrifter  Gray Merchant of Asphodel  Gurmag Angler  Rolling Thunder

Unfortunately, like all “Kitty” variants, the deck has a terrible Tron matchup.  The inability to reliably disrupt the big-mana gameplan while applying pressure makes the endless sea of Mulldrifters and other reduced-cost creatures mostly unbeatable.  It should be noted that the addition of Chainer’s Edict helps in some games, but the inevitability Tron has, specifically with Rolling Thunder, makes the matchup horrendous.  I’m not even sold that adding sideboard cards is worth the effort, as a single Stone Rain doesn’t do much to disrupt Tron and two-power flyers aren’t usually enough to pressure the deck.

In taking a screenshot of the matchups, Kuldotha Jeskai or 4C Kuldotha has solid matchups against many other top decks.  Delver was, and still is, a great matchup for the deck.  Cheap removal and flyers allow the Kitty deck to play multiple spells per turn much quicker than other decks, putting early pressure on Delver decks to both win the board and disrupt the gameplan.  The constant flow of cards from the Kitty decks make that gameplan more difficult for Delver, as Ninja of the Deep Hours is easily dealt with and Gush does not provide the constant card advantage needed to fight a war of attrition.

Affinity can go either way.  The Kuldotha decks that are packing sideboard Gorilla Shaman will obviously have a much easier time handling Affinity.  Even those without it have access to Chainer’s Edict, Journey to Nowhere and Hydroblast, all solid choices.  Personally, I’ve opted for cheaper options in Ancient Grudge, utilizing my Journey to Nowheres and Oblivion Rings to handle Atog while also packing maindeck Flame Slash to deal with the 4/4s. 

UB Angler is a bit easier, with only a few creatures to worry about, it isn’t difficult to manage the board and leverage removal correctly.  As long as the Kuldotha pilot correctly saves Journey to Nowhere, Chainer’s Edict and Oblivion Ring for the larger threats, the Sultai Scavengers and Delver of Secrets can easily be handled by the red removal. 

Decks packing Pristine Talisman and Evincar’s Justice provide a slightly more difficult matchup, as like Tron, time is on their side.  Game one can usually be difficult, with multiple dead removal spells and the inability to put reliable pressure on a real issue for the Kuldotha deck.  After sideboarding, Dark Jeskai has access to a number of options to combat UB Control.  Be wary of Curse of the Bloody Tome, and I highly recommend bringing in Kor Sanctifiers not only as an out, but as just another beater to apply pressure.  Disturbed Burial, Grim Harvest and Font of Return are all viable options to continue applying pressure over the course of the game.  Consistently rebuying Mortuary Mire triggers with Kor Skyfisher also helps in the grind. 

The Mono Black matchup is fairly easy.  With the newer versions of MBC looking to establish board control and increase devotion, the number of hard removal spells has dropped.  They play a number of 2/2s for three, quickly outclassed by Kor Skyfisher.  Additionally, Mulldrifter provides more advantage than MBC can typically overcome.  After sideboarding, recurring threats and grinding them out of removal is easy with Disturbed Burial and the like.  Deep Analysis provides card advantage even if your opponent has hand disruption. 

In my limited experience in the mirror match, the game comes down to land-drops and proper use of removal.  The deck that stumbles on mana first has a hard time regaining its footing in the wake of multiple threats.  Mulligan somewhat aggressively, keeping hands that are heavy on lands and cantripping artifacts.  The mirror is also where the black splash has shined the most in my experience.  The ability to board out Journey to Nowhere and Oblivion Ring, blanking their enchantment hate, while bringing in additional edicts, recursion and draw spells, allows the Dark Jeskai variant to grind out more value in the mid and late game. 


Final Thoughts

With the recent banning of Cloud of Faeries, the Pauper metagame is in a state of flux.  Currently, the top of the format has been defined by value engines, either grinding out wins with Kor Skyfisher, cheating on mana like Affinity or leveraging the power of Counterspell in conjunction with eternal all-star Delver of Secrets.  With so much of the metagame defined by these top decks, it is important to skew your list to fight against these lists when entering League play, two-man matches or player-run events. 

Overall, the shell of the deck is quite flexible, with Kor Skyfisher, Glint Hawk and Prophetic Prism allowing for numerous color combinations based in white.  The advantage engine is powerful, and I encourage those interested in the archetype to experiment with the different flavors.  Everything from the mainboard to sideboard slots can be changed up to fit the expected metagame.  For example, I expect Hexproof to be popular at my local paper shops, so naturally, I play more Chainer's Edict main and I've even added Ray of Revelation and Diabolic Edict to my sideboard. 

Dark Jeskai, 4-Color Kuldotha or whatever you’d like to call it, offers everything needed to fight the expected metagame, at least how it currently sits.  Unless we see a massive increase in Tron (don’t play Tron, folks, at least not against me, please), I don’t see how the other fair decks will compete against the likes of Kor Skyfisher and its friends.


As for you combo players, don’t think I have forgotten about you.  With Valentine’s Day over, remember, you can always take a ride on the Love Train.

 

 

Ever resolve a Train of Thought for your deck?  You should try it.  It’s a blast.

 

Until next time. 

- Chris

PujolsTheDestroyer on MTGO.