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By: jcf, Jose Freitas
Oct 22 2020 11:00am

Devising Pauper

 - Honey, I will play this sort of long tournament Sunday morning*, I have those things called QPs inside my account, I'll basically play for free and I don't know when I'll have another opportunity to use those QP's.

- How long will it be? When is it going to be over? I want to go out for dinner tonight.

- I don't know, honey, it might end quickly. I'll probably lose the first couple rounds and just drop out. You know I don't really like to play those long tournaments. But this one is practically free, I have to try at least.

We had late dinner that day...

*due to time zone.

Hello my friends, since I started writing about Pauper here on PureMTGO website, my goal has been to bring fun, interesting, reasonably strong Pauper brews. Tell the tale about tournaments or practice with those decks.

Many times I am not trying to bring the most powerful decks ever, but to bring decks that at least have a chance to fight inside the Pauper competitive metagame.

Often I even try to bring some decks that are inside a reasonable budget, because I see those as a way to new players at least practice and get to know the format without the need to invest so much.

Today I am bringing something different, it is not a budget deck at all, neither it is the strongest deck in Pauper. But it is a deck I been carving in leagues for a while and I felt very comfortable playing with.

Unexpectedly, I must say, this deck brought me an awesome result, it took me all the way to the first place at the Pauper Zendikar Rising Championship Qualifier in late September. Yup, we swam with sharks, and survived!

Deck tech:

I call this deck Midrange Affinity, but maybe it should be called Midrange Jeskai Affinity, since there are so many ways you can build midrange decks inside an Affinity shell. It looks like a mix between Jeskai Affinity and Midrange Boros, but I would say the inspiration to brew this deck came from the Snow Jeskai decks back when Arcum's Astrolabe was legal. 

The concept behind the deck is to draw a lot of cards while populating the board with flyers, just like Boros Midrange. Then we have a couple removal spells in Galvanic Blast and Journey to Nowhere to slow opponents down or to deal with problematic creatures. Finally we have a couple (Krark-Klan Shaman) that have the potential to wipe the board against decks based on ground creatures like elves or walls.

If your flyers aren't enough to finish the opponent for some reason, like a Stonehorn Dignitary combat lock, the deck has an alternative kill condition with good old Fling plus Atog combo aided by Essence Harvest as a backup option.

So we are trying to hold down faster decks and alternate kill controlling decks, I can't think of a more midrangish deck than that.


This is the list I would use in a league, it is not exactly the same I did use in the event because I was expecting a slightly different meta there. I found an extremely different meta to be honest. Also, some players already made some small changes and I really think it is worth it to take a look at those if you find those, there are pros and cons to each change.


The only changes from the tournament list are one basic Plains maindeck replacing Thriving Heath and one extra Dispel on the sideboard replacing Echoing Truth.

I added the Plains fearing to face Cleansing Wildfire, the card was just released and I thought players might use it as a tech against Tron, so I wanted to have at least one basic land in the deck. Turns out I didn't see any Cleansing Wildfire that day.

The extra Dispel replacing Echoing Truth was an attempt to make the sideboard a bit better against Tron, a match I was expecting to see a lot of on that tourney. I think this one worked actually.

One thing to consider depending on the metagame you are expecting to see is to add one Dispel maindeck, replacing maybe (Krark-Klan Shaman). I believe I should've made this switch for this tournament actually.

Currently there are already some alternative versions of this deck running in the leagues, I advise you to take a look and playtest a few versions to find the one more fitting for you if you are planning to play this deck. That said, keep in mind each little piece is there for a reason, so be careful with versions that reduce the options inside the list.

Zendikar Rising Champs Qualifier - Tournament Report:

This tournament was long, really long, we are talking ten rounds here and some very long games. Sometimes I might give a brief report on each game trying to highlight the cards and strategies I think were important in each of our matches.

I had plans to include a video with the replays for more detailed review. But sadly I can't. My MTGO simply stopped logging in for several days and in the process to fix it, support drove me thru something they call "clean installation". I deleted some specific files on my computer, reinstalled MTGO and it did work eventually, but I lost all my game replays. Sorry about that.

Let's start!

Round 1: Midrange Affinity vs Midrange Boros:

Game 1:

We mulligan to a hand with only blue mana but soon draw our fix and start populating the board. Opponent starts slow with Bonder's Ornament but eventually put up some defense. The key card in this match was Essence Harvest. It was a very long game with lots of removal both sides and a stalled board. Eventually we drew the Essence Harvest plus Atog combo and got thru the defensive Prismatic Strands since Essence can't be prevented!

Game 2:

The main concern here is to not let Gorilla Shaman resolve if possible. So I add three Blue Elemental Blast, removing Fling and both Krarks.

We both start slow with cantrip rocks both sides. We are fortunate to open with Thriving Heath followed by Darksteel Citadel, the best defense against an early gorilla. Sadly that wasn't enough, gorilla did resolve on turn three and it really made our life hard. They locked  our mana out and eventually won with card advantage from Bonder's Ornament.

Game 3:

Opponent doesn't cast Gorilla soon enough. By the time it hits play in the late game, we have just too much resources and it doesn't affect the game that much. They eventually start to take over the board due to Bonder's Ornament drawing extra cards, but we topdeck Atog with Essence Harvest in hand deciding the match.

round1 game 3 vs boros
After a very long game, Essence Harvest saves us one more time

Round 2: Midrange Affinity vs Tron:

Game one we mulligan to a hand with Atog and Ichor Wellspring, never a bad thing. Opponent has a slow start taking a while to find the Urza lands, but so do we as Atog is the only early pressure we manage to put on the board.

By turn five Myr Enforcer joins our army to meet (Cast Down) immediately. 

We almost kill them turn six, but a Dispel meets our second Galvanic Blast making Atog not lethal by exactly one life.

Turn seven we get lucky enough to draw Fling and turn eight they are forced to tap out, using Mystical Teachings to search for Moment's Peace, so I seize the opportunity and Fling does its job.

Game two they manage to assemble tron pieces relatively early and put up some defense. After that they have a hard time finding ways to kill us. Remember we can also draw a lot of cards and put up a massive defense both on the sky and grounds. That ended up consuming a lot of their time while they had to deal with our multiple blockers.

Game three they simply didn't have enough time and lost on clock.

Round 3: Midrange Affinity vs Tron:

If there is a factor that really mattered on this match it was the clock. While we did lose the first (very long) game, I did everything I could to make my opponent's life difficult. They set up an unbreakable line of defense with one billion flicker effects per turn, but Tron sometimes has a bit of trouble finding ways to kill you and we had a pretty solid air defense as well with our Kor Skyfishers and Glint Hawks. So, I know I would lose but I kept playing and giving my opponent the burden to find a way to kill me. They end up doing a super cool tech of recurring Compulsive Research multiple times with flicker combo and targeting me, making me lose from an empty library.

While that was super cool to watch, it did consume a lot of their clock.

Game two we were just lucky and had a fast draw while they struggled to find the Tron pieces. The game wasn't so long but it did consume a bit more of their clock.

By game three they had only 5 minutes left and we had 8. We both knew they simply wouldn't be able to kill me fast enough. I try to put as much pressure as I could early game anyway trying to force them to play defensively and the clock did give us that victory.

I think if you are playing seriously, against Tron you should never give up, because time is always a factor there. Even if they don't exactly die on time, less clock time means they often have to make more aggressive choices both in sideboarding and gameplay, opening more windows for you to kill them.

Tron Clock
Saved by the bell! With three minutes left, they simply won't have enough time to stabilize and turn the table against this board presence

Round 4: Midrange Affinity vs Tron:

Tron again! What a surprise! This match the clock didn't help me so much. They had eight minutes in the third game, but the combination of Dispel plus Red Elemental Blast and the Essence Harvest combo helped us in the 3rd game and we end up taking the match. 

Game one we got obliterated and game two they simply didn't find tron early enough and we win by good old beatdown!

Round 5: Midrange Affinity vs Tron:

Sadly this time we didn't have so much luck against the best deck in the format. I basically got crushed, opponent found tron pieces very efficiently both games and finished me with Rolling Thunder quite fast both times. My draws were a bit clunky and I simply didn't manage to put any considerable amount of pressure early game. Easy match for the opponent honestly.

And somehow - by miracle - that was the last Tron we faced that tournament. Phew!

Round 6: Midrange Affinity vs Dimir Faeries:

While Dimir Faeries is no doubt one of the best decks in the format: it is a much easier match for Midrange Affinity than Tron. The key cards in this match were Journey to Nowhere, getting rid of the mighty Gurmag Angler and the cantrip flyers, like Kor Skyfisher and Glint Hawk: putting up a solid defense in the sky against faeries while gaining some value in the process.

The most dangerous card early game for us is definitely Ninja of the Deep Hours. You want to play more defensively early, avoiding getting hit by ninja as much as you can and trying also to not let them get value from Spellstutter Sprite early. Don't worry so much about dealing damage early, worry about gaining value fi possible and putting up a solid defense. The late game is usually favoured for us.

Round 7: Midrange Affinity vs Dimir Faeries:

One more time we face a favoured match. Of course I can't say any game was easy, we are talking high level players here, but it is a lot easier than Tron. Games were very similar to round 6. Avoid ninjas and stutters early game, put up some defense. Sideboard in Red Elemental Blast, taking Fling, Essence Harvest and Krark-Clan Shamans out because you want to grind this match, not try to combo kill them. It is all about value.

It is interesting that I faced so many Tron decks on the first half of the tournament and so many Faeries on the second half. Feels like the tournament had a lot of Tron players and a good amount of Faeries players that beat the Tron decks. I wonder if Faeries is favorable against Tron, it might be, I am not sure about that. Maybe this was just coincidence tho. Not possible to say for sure.

Quarter Finals:

Round 8: Midrange Affinity vs Azorius Flicker:

I think I got very lucky this match, it is not particularly easy for our deck and opponent had a bad draw both games. Game one they got color hosed, finding only islands and while they did draw a bunch of cards and put up some defense for a while, not being able to cast key spells like Sunscape Familiar and Stonehorn Dignitary meant they got overwhelmed by our board presence.

Game two they mulligan to five and while they did a great job to put up some defense and did manage to cut our combat phase, being at low resource from the beginning meant they had to tap out often to keep up, giving us windows and eventually we managed to Fling

Semi Finals:

Round 9: Midrange Affinity vs Izzet Faeries.

This match wasn't easy at all, it is much harder for our deck because of a single card: Gorilla Shaman. I really think this card should be banned so I can play my affinity deck happy and peacefully, without having to worry about a one mana card that wrecks my deck. We can dream at least.

Game one went relatively smoothly, we are slightly favoured before sideboard as long as we manage to put up some defense. Very similar to games against Dimir Faeries, just don't let Ninjas do their thing.

Game two I sideboarded all of my Blue Elemental Blasts and also Red Elemental Blasts trying to avoid let Gorilla Shaman hit the board at all cost.

We can trim a couple Thraben Inspectors, Galvanic Blasts and remove Fling, Essence Harvest and (Krark Clan-Shaman) to make room for so much sideboard. They are not optimal in this match.

My efforts weren't enough, around turn seven opponent manages to resolve our nightmare Gorilla and wrecks our land base. I keep playing on the back of one Thriving Heath and one Darksteel Citadel but not being able to develop our mana meant they overwhelmed us.

Game three I got a bit lucky. We managed to counter the first Gorilla Shaman and they did manage to put a second into play a lot later in the game, around turn 13. But by that turn we had a very developed board, with multiple Darksteel Citadels and (Prophetic Prisms), not to mention an army of 2/2s, 2/3s and 4/4s against an army of 1/1s and 1/3s. So the burden to take the game on its own was too much for their poor Gorilla Shaman this time,


Round 10: Midrange Affinity vs Dimir Faeries.

Game 1:

This game was just epic, we had to mulligan to five on the draw. Opponent managed to hit us with multiple Ninja of the Deep Hours and eventually put up a much bigger board presence than ours.

When we were just about to lose to combat damage we top deck Essence Harvest against an opponent with an empty hand and simply win with Atog combo.

Game 2:

Things were more easy game 2, we just had a very good draw since the start - with a lot of card draw and flyers - and we managed to put an overwhelming board presence relatively early. Piece of cake!

Final Record:

So, we won 9 out of 10 matches and reached the glory, riding our little brew! Who would say?!

I got in this tournament hoping to achieve top 32 and end up in first, quite a day in my MTG life!

Brewing has its perks of course, in some matches I felt I had a little edge because my opponents weren't so used to play against my deck than I was used to play against theirs. Of course a good chunk of luck did its part as well.

Props to my wife for having the patience to wait so long to go out for a meal. It did payoff and we did celebrate that dinner.

What is next:

I'am in trouble. Regarding constructed, I'am basically a Pauper player. 

At this point, I am doing my best to dive into Standard. I'am trying to prepare for Zendikar Rising Championship in the best way I can. I have absolutely no experience in the current meta, I own basically no Standard cards on MTGO and... well... let's face it I am not the favourite horse in this race. But I will sure have fun preparing and trying to do my best! 

I have plans to write one more article on Pauper here on PureMTGO, but after that one, if I do get to write, it will probably be about Standard - for a while at least.

I love Pauper and it hurts my hearth to be away from the format for a while, but I really have to focus if I want to have a tiny fraction of a chance in the Zendikar Rising Tournament.

Thanks for reading! Have fun and battle well!