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By: SpikeBoyM, Alex Ullman
Jul 28 2014 12:14pm
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I root for losers. Born and raised in Brooklyn, it would have been so easy to cheer for the Yankees. Who doesn’t love a winner? Not only that but during my formative years the Yankees weren’t just good - they were great. Four World Series wins and fielding some of the best players in their, or baseball’s, history (numbers 2 and 42 for those wondering). 

Alas I fell for the other team- the Mets.  I’d like to say I was being contrarian and going against the grain. That’d be a lie - I became a hardcore Mets fan in 1999 because of a single play. Y’see the Mets were playing their hated rival, the Atlanta Braves, in the playoffs. I was watching the game on the television in my room as the game languished in extra innings. The game was tied, bases were loaded, and Robin Ventura came to the plate. Then he hit it out of the park and the Mets won by one run. 

Why? Because his team was so damn excited that once the winning run scored they mobbed him. He never reached second base. Boom: Grand. Slam. Single.  

I became a Mets fan because of cool things. 

Chad Ellis is disappointed.

My fate was sealed. Over the next decade and a half the Mets would have a few good (some great) runs but never win it all. While they are currently primed for the future, the current moment is a few hairs above mediocre. 

To go deeper into sports, I also root for the Knicks, Jets (NFL), and Rangers (NHL). Since 1999, two championship appearances for that squad. 

I love losers, I can’t get enough of them. Success is so much sweeter after years of failure. 

Maybe that’s why I’m sticking around Pauper. 

Pauper clearly has a problem. Right now the format is supported by Magic Online but getting an event to fire is a struggle.   Weekend Premier events have not filled in months and as of this writing it has been multiple days since two single elimination queues were posted. 

Before I go any further I want to be very clear: I do not (repeat bold emphasize do not) think Wizards wants to kill Pauper. If they did it would be gone. There is a plan for the format (even if it is not public).

How We Got Here

In November of 2013 Magic Online experienced multiple high profile crashes. This led to the suspension of Daily Events as they operated at the time. Once Daily Events were returned to Magic Online Pauper was given single elimination queues (8 person tournaments) and larger Premier Events, but no Daily Events. The reasoning provided was that the powers that be wanted Magic Online to more closely resemble paper play.

I believe this was the result of a perfect storm. Let’s be realistic for a moment - having a Magic Online with stable Standard, Modern, Legacy, and Sealed events is far more important than having regular Pauper events. In order to make sure that happened certain resources probably had to be cut - including having events scheduled at different times across different days and the non-real world formats (Pauper and Momir specifically).

An aside: I know there are people who play Pauper in the world of paper. I know there are enclaves of communities and people who travel with a full trove of decks to bust out amongst friends. I know this because many of them frequent my page and proclaim their existence. I’m not trying to disparage them when I say this: in the grand scheme of things you are a small population. For the dozen or so that tell me they have a vibrant community, there were probably hundreds of people playing online Pauper, if not thousands.

This was triage, plain and simple. Pauper was expendable at the moment. Looking back at the history of the format it makes sense. Pauper only became sanctioned because it had an extremely active community of player run events. Given a void it would make sense for these events to pop back up (and they have, but not to the same degree of PDC’s heyday). Pauper was likely a casualty because the people in charge knew it could weather the worst and come out intact.

Let’s also talk about the elephant in the room: money. Pauper is, almost by definition, the least profitable of the Daily Event formats. While at the time it cost the same as a Block, Legacy, Modern, or Standard event and paid out the same, the cost of maintaining a Pauper collection is a fraction of these other formats. Getting every relevant Pauper card from Theros Block, including those that see fringe play, will cost just over $1.16 at MTGOTraders. That’s less than the cost of single typical two-color rare land. In a given year the entire cost to upgrade a Pauper collection is likely under $5 and buying in at the base level is incredibly affordable compared to other available formats. The affordability - a key component of Pauper - transformed competing with commons into a place where grinders could turn a huge profit. I think that this contributed to Wizards removing the Daily Events. I also believe the reason an analogous style event was not created was something already mentioned: triage. While I do not have experience in code I can imagine creating a new (or even and adapted) format would pull resources away from those seeking to make V3 stable and the staff trying to get V4 ready for launch. Given the postulation that Pauper would survive a downturn ask yourself: did it make sense to let Pauper tread water from November 2013 until today?

I say yes.

Has Pauper Survived?

There’s a show on the Discovery Channel called “Naked and Afraid.” The show is simple: drop a male and female into a place where it is difficult to live. Give them one tool each (of their choice), a bag, and nothing else, then have them last for three weeks.

The participants (because there is no prize on the line) scrape and claw and carve out a niche for themselves in these places where humanity has collectively decided that they won’t reside. I’ve yet to see an episode where the teams don’t make it to the end. However they always barely make it and are far worse for their ordeal.

Pauper is alive but just barely. Part of this is due to the V4 conversion and part is due to a paucity of solid event offerings. It is possible I am blind to a vibrant player run event community with multiple offerings per week, but I doubt it.


One of the great things about being alive is improvement. Pauper might be subsisting on a diet of acorn paste and water of dubious origin but it is around. This is a Good Thing. If the Princess Bride has taught me anything it is that Mostly Dead is very much alive.

The people who play Pauper are still around and are eager to game again. Here are my ideas getting their collective rear ends into the Red Zone.

Articulate a Plan

The general population of Magicians knows what Standard is supposed to do. Modern is starting to sculpt its own identity. Pauper is supposed to be competitive Magic with commons. As of now it is more of “playing with only commons.” While Wizards may have a plan (and communication from the higher ups seem to indicate this) I would personally like to see steps in that direction. I understand if the road map can’t be laid out for the public, but let’s take the first step.

Daily Event Analogues

I am going to concede that Wizards does not want Pauper to have Daily Events due to the economic impact. Given this providing four round Swiss style events with reduced buy in and reduced prize pay out. Players don’t just play events to win - many participate to test their ideas. Having to enter a new event upon any loss makes learning rather expensive. I’m not asking for a free education here, just a chance to get more mileage out of the price of admission.

16-Player Swiss Queues

In the same vein as Daily Events these tournaments would allow players to invest a few hours of their time into testing their latest brews. The advantage here is that they could fire when full as opposed to on a schedule. This is great for the consumer who wants to play but may not be able to play in scheduled events due to other commitments (such as work or sleep). Single elimination queues are great but again, they do not allow players to learn. These lower stakes Swiss queues could allow newer players a chance to find their footing.

The Banned List

I come under fire a lot for agreeing with the banned list. Certain strategies have been neutered; specifically Storm and Cloudpost decks. The fact of the matter is that if Pauper is going to remain a “competitive format with commons,” card that are do things commons can’t answer need to be excised. So far Wizards has done a good job, removing Storm and Invigorate from the playable pool. I believe that once that format is heavily played once more that this will trend will continue.

Rotate the Schedule

Standard Pauper has a sizable following but no sanctioned support. The format is more shallow than others but still provides a diversion. I propose that for the first four to six weeks of any release that Wizards offers Standard Pauper queues and reduces the number of Pauper events. This would help to drive the need to acquire new commons (many of which would never see play in “classic” Pauper) while keeping Classic fresh and preventing Standard Pauper from going too stale.

Pauper will come back - of that I am sure. These are my solutions - what are yours?

Keep slingin’ commons-


SpikeBoyM on Magic Online


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Did they ever ban Temporal by doc_brietz at Mon, 07/28/2014 - 12:04
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Did they ever ban Temporal Fissure? I lost so many freaking games to that card that I quit pauper.

Temporal Fissure by SpikeBoyM at Mon, 07/28/2014 - 12:06
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Yes- Temporal Fissure is banned.

Sad to read this article. I by Parabola at Mon, 07/28/2014 - 21:16
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Sad to read this article. I used to play Classic Pauper and am just getting back into MTGO. First goal was to buy up whatever's good in Pauper now. I still plan to, but it looks like it'll be harder to find a game.

One thing I noticed that has been a hindrance is a lack of information on Classic Pauper. I used to use pdcmagic, but it looks like since I was gone they completely dropped normal Pauper in favor of Standard Pauper, making it that much harder to find not just winning decklists but a breakdown of how those decks run.

Try gatherling.com by Rerepete at Mon, 07/28/2014 - 23:51
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Try gatherling.com

In terms of finding a game, by Bertro at Tue, 07/29/2014 - 08:54
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In terms of finding a game, that's not hard in either the "Just for Fun" room or "Tournament Practice Room". Pauper's the main format I play and at the worse times I might need to wait a couple of minutes to get a game going.

These tend to be competitive decks, but Pauper is pretty wide open:
RUG Tron
Mono-Blue Delver
Madness (lots of variants on madness)

The above decks are just a sampling and they do range in terms of competitiveness. Unfortunately I don't have the time to do player run events like the PDC, but Pauper will give you a lot of options for casual decks that can be put together on the cheap and win games.

Classic Pauper is my favorite by ScionOfJustice at Tue, 07/29/2014 - 06:42
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Classic Pauper is my favorite format. I also think it is great how affordable it is and am not sure why so few people are interested in it.

I hate to be cynical, but by JMason at Tue, 07/29/2014 - 17:57
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I hate to be cynical, but success seems to depend on prizes. Nobody seems to want to play for the love of pauper alone. Whatever succeeds needs to have a prize structure. I look at what SCG have been doing as an example; holding out the carrot of great prizes has boosted their sales proportionally. Can any trader work out how to drive sales of pauper cards through prize sponsorship?

I guess constructed pauper really isn't profitable for those type of people. What we really need is a limited pauper format.

Instead of reject rares draft by Paul Leicht at Tue, 07/29/2014 - 19:21
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Instead of reject rares draft run a reject commons draft?

J-E-T-S, Jets, Jets, Jets! by bread expert at Mon, 08/04/2014 - 18:48
bread expert's picture

J-E-T-S, Jets, Jets, Jets!