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By: CottonRhetoric, Cotton Rhetoric
Sep 04 2013 8:34am
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In my last article about Pauper (which was also my first article about Pauper), I ended with a discussion about how powerful wraths are in the format, and how few of them there are.  To quickly recap, because there are so few wraths, people tend to make more creature-based decks, and then they tend to overcommit when they play with those decks.  Which makes wrathing really good!!!

I featured a deck around two of Pauper's wraths, Crypt Rats and Pestilence.  And I teased that in my next article (ie this one) I would be featuring a deck around the third wrath in pauper, Martyr of Ashes.

This is all true, but what I forgot to say that there is in fact a fourth wrath I had forgotten about, which will also be featured in today's first deck.  So prominently, in fact, that the deck is getting named after it:


Deck 1 Swirling Sandstorm

Swirling Sandstorm    

Swirling Sandstorm!  What a powerhouse!  If you do not think this card is a powerhouse (or a wrath in the first place), then you have probably never played any pauper games.

Basically, the only creatures this thing doesn't kill are fliers and Ulamog's Crusher.  Fliers you don't see much, except for ones small enough to kill with a bolt like Delver of Secrets and Liliana's Specter.  And Ulamog's Crusher only comes down in the late game, when the Cloudpost control player is confident that they already have the game won.

But in the other 90% of the games, it kills everybody, and not uncommonly four or more guys at a time.  Like I said above, this is a format where people overcommit.

For that reason, I would like to cram in four more wraths, in the form of Martyr of Ashes.  It helps clear the board in the early turns, before we're ready to cast a Swirling Sandstorm.

The Martyr means we're stuck in red, and the Swirling Sandstorm means we're stuck with a graveyard theme. (This means the article's title is relevant after all!) So how can we make this happen in a format with only commons?

    Faithless Looting
We'll need enablers, like Faithless Looting, Wild Guess, and Rummaging GoblinBurning Inquiry sets up threshold quickly but isn't in this deck since as you'll see in the next paragraph I have specific cards I do and do not want to discard.  And Book Burning (aimed at myself) seemed like a great idea but just got cut after a lackluster show in playtesting.

We'll also need further synergy with the graveyard theme.  Given how much effort we're putting into stuffing our graveyard, it seems wasteful to have Swirling Sandstorm be the only card to benefit from it, right?  Firebolt is a no-brainer powerful flashback card.  And it's great and taking down those Delvers our wraths can't hit.  What's more, its flashback negates the card disadvantage that would come with bolting a Liliana's Specter.

I experimented with a 4x Flame Burst and Pardic Firecat suite, but these cards are just not as powerful as they used to be.  Now that Lightning Bolt and Flame Slash are both format-legal, a lot of other bolts lost their relevance.  And a 2/3 is a surprisingly nice body in the pauper metagame, but not when you have to pay four mana for it.  Sorry, Firecats!  You still have a cool concept though.  One that WotC should revisit in my opinion.

Fiery Temper plays well off all the discard in this deck.  And Dragon Breath is great to use in here.  In fact, it's great to use anywhere that isn't that win-out-of-nowhere combo. When you're in the Just For Fun room, at least! We'll need a 6-mana creature to play with it, and my favorite one that's also red and common is Morselhoarder.  The turn you cast him, and he attacks with haste, he's already a 7/4.  And you can use his mana-producing ability to pump the Dragon Breath twice, bringing him to a 9/4!  The next turn, you'll have (at least) six mana already out to pump him up.  If the opponent stalls out, or if you can bolt their lone blocker, it's not unusual to win the game after the second swing. And before you complain about his lack of trample, remember that before casting him we can clear away the board with our eight different wraths.  I wouldn't use Swirling Sandstorm after you cast him, of course, but you could still do a Martyr for 3!

Martyr of Ashes    

A quick usage note for Martyr of Ashes: do not cast him on the first turn, really no matter what.  Even if they open with a Swamp into Carnophage.  Cast a Faithless Looting on the first turn if you have it, or do nothing at all, but leave that Martyr in your hand.  There are two reasons why.

1: If your opponent doesn't know you have a Martyr, they will cast more creatures.  If they do, they'll just leave it at the one.  It's better to surprise them on the third turn with a Martyr cast-and-activation at the same time, killing three guys instead of just one on the second turn.  You will take more damage this way, obviously, but you'll also deplete your opponent's resources much better.  Which is more important to you?

2: If your Martyr is on the table on the first turn, it could get killed before you ever have enough mana to use him.  And losing a Martyr is much, much worse than losing a typical 1-mana creature, since it does so much for you.  (Especially against those hexproof decks!  But also against like 95% of the other Pauper decks you'll see.)

The burn is in there to control the early game. You can upgrade Flame Slash to Skred if you have all the snow mountains. And that is the deck!  Feel free to tinker with the contents.

It's for casual pauper ok
4 Martyr of Ashes
4 Rummaging Goblin
4 Morselhoarder
1 Coalhauler Swine
13 cards

Other Spells
4 Faithless Looting
2 Firebolt
4 Flame Slash
2 Lightning Bolt
2 Dragon Breath
2 Fury Charm
2 Wild Guess
2 Fiery Temper
4 Swirling Sandstorm
24 cards
2 Gruul Turf
21 Mountain
23 cards

Dragon Breath


Deck 2 UG Threshold

While I'm coming fresh off of threshold, let's do another one!  This time, UG instead of mono-R.

The obvious reasons to do this are Werebear and Springing Tiger.  The not-so-obvious reason is something that actually became the best card in the deck: Aboshan's Desire.

Springing Tiger  Aboshan's Desire

Take a minute to think about the pauper metagame.  It's got tons of creatures, most of them small.  The ones that have flying are always small.  It's got Terrors and Bolts.  (The small creatures get bolted and the large creatures get Terrored).  It has very few wraths, used by very few decks.

How exactly is your opponent supposed to stop a 5/5 with flying and shroud??

They can't Terror it.  They can't bolt it.  They can't trade with it.  They can't even hit it with a Martyr of Ashes (since it flies).  All they can do is hope to outrun it.

So we have the core of our deck.  We can add a crucial third beater in blue's Makeshift Mauler, giving us 12 worthy targets for Aboshan's Desire instead of 8.  We can add some graveyard enabling, which fortunately blue is much better at than red.  There's Mental Note (preferable to Thought Scour online because it involves one less click!), Strategic Planning, Armored Skaab, Deranged Assistant....  The last of those is synergistic with all of our four-drops, especially when you consider we already have the Werebears going to accomplish more of the same.

Deranged Assistant   Werebear

What a curve!

Blue is surprisingly light on flashback cards in common.  Deep Analysis is the classic one, although doesn't quite fit into this deck since we're already running Strategic Planning, and right now we have a greater need for enablers than for combos with the enablers.  Silent Departure is an acceptable if underwhelming newcomer.  And green... has...

...I'll... get back to you on that.

By now I've said nearly every card in the deck. All that's left is some Counterspells and (my removal of choice) Lignify!  With all of your attackers having a power of 4 or greater, and sometimes having flying as well even, an 0/4 tree isn't going to present a problem to you.


Casual pauper yes
4 Werebear
2 Deranged Assistant
4 Armored Skaab
4 Makeshift Mauler
4 Springing Tiger
18 cards

Other Spells
3 Mental Note
2 Silent Departure
4 Aboshan's Desire
3 Strategic Planning
3 Counterspell
4 Lignify
19 cards
1 Simic Guildgate
2 Tranquil Thicket
12 Island
8 Forest
23 cards

Makeshift Mauler



Deck 3 Tortured Madness

Tortured Existence    

There's only one deck left, and it's the craziest of the three.

It's built around a card that, when printed, was just an incredible piece of junk.  There was nothing to combo with it in 1998.  But in the years since, we've gained cards with graveyard activations, Firemane Angel, madness, unearth, dredge, Squee, Goblin Nabob, Golgari Brownscale, and on and on and on.  It's grown pretty crazy!  Hard to believe it was printed at common, until you remember the first two sentences of this paragraph.

We can't do all of those in Pauper, but we can do most of them.  And another neat trick we can do: all of those 1-mana cycling creatures, like Monstrous Carabid.  We pitch them early on to get to the good stuff.  And if we aren't arriving at the good stuff as fast as we hoped... ditch another random creature to get the Carabid back, and cycle it again!  And that still only cost a total of 2 mana (a completely reasonable cost for cycling).

There aren't many madness creatures in common, and there are even fewer that are playable.  (Oh, do I wish Arrogant Wurm and Reckless Wurm were commons.) Most of the good common ones are in black, most importantly Grave Scrabbler, Brain Gorgers, and Gorgon Recluse.  None are stellar, to be sure, but they are acceptable, and in this deck, we get the discount very reliably.  I started out with 4 of each, but eventually whittled 12 copies down to 7.

    Grave Scrabbler

We won't always draw a Tortured Existence, so how else can we discard our madness creatures?  Gathan Raiders is a neat trick.  We can also steal a page from Deck 1 above and run some red sifters like Faithless Looting and Rummaging Goblin.  And then there's a new trick in Lightning Axe!  I only put in two since dealing five damage is a bit overkill in nearly every game of Pauper.  Still, the discard is often a bonus in this deck, not a drawback, and in many cases I would actually prefer drawing it to a regular Lightning Bolt, even when looking at a 3/3 creature on the opponent's table.

As I've said a few times now, wraths are ridiculously strong in this format, and I would be silly not to play them when I have the chance.  In goes Martyr of Ashes again!  We don't have the 37 red spells the other deck had, but there are still enough to make him useful.  The only (mono) black cards in the deck are the Tortured Existences and the 7 madness guys, meaning we still have 27 red cards.  Remember that in Pauper you rarely need to go higher than X equals 2 or 3.

This deck is capable of some nutty turns.  Give it a try!


Do I have more fun pauper decks coming next week?  Yes I do.


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