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By: SteveJeltz, Rev. David Wright
Jun 19 2017 12:00pm
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Pauper is in a very good place right now. Not only do we have hundreds of players active in leagues and the newfound prize support of the high stakes weekend Pauper Challenge events, but what's best about the format is that no deck is truly dominating. The three most representative decks, Izzet Delver, Stompy, and Affinity all routinely put up good finishes but don't dominate large events, and the wide variety of decks that can finish 5-0 in a league or spike a large tournament is refreshing.  

A big reason for the health of the Pauper metagame is that every deck has effective answers. Some decks maybe carry quite favorable game 1 win percentages, but rarely is another deck totally unprepared to answer it. On the contrary, we’re also not seeing entire decks or strategies hated out by a single card or predator strategy. Instead we have a healthy metagame of Aggro, Control, and Midrange decks, all categories of which have elements of combo finishes from  Atog-Fling, to “Rat-Lock” to Midnight Guard-Presence of Gond.


But even with the blessed diversity of the current Pauper format, a good pilot always comes prepared. Whether is choices concerning how to build your 15 card Sideboard, or wiser yet, your 60 card main deck and your whole 75, building your deck with a greater knowledge of how other decks succeeds gives you not only a better chance to disrupt their plan but also to enact yours.

Our goal today is to look at five of the ten of the top performing decks in the Pauper metagame and the cards you can play to beat them at their game. (Next week we'll look at five more.)


  1. Izzet Delver

Spellstutter Sprite Skred Ninja of the Deep Hours

The addition of Red for real removal has both taken away a lot of mono-blue Delver’s weaknesses and also greatly strengthened its sideboard at the cost of a slight loss of speed. Regardless of its support colors, Delver is inherently a tempo deck. To beat Delver, you need to not let them dictate the pace of the game. That means not letting their threats stick, and keeping them out of a position where their counters put you more than a turn behind. As the most ubiquitous deck on the format, I recommend three angles of attack:

  1. Play red cards. Pyroblast is deservedly the best sideboard card in Pauper, able to both counter their answer and pick off threats if they’re tapped out. Additionally Electrickery is an amazing modal card that can be a 1-for-1 early and a 2-for-1 lot. Choose your spots though with the sweeper. I personally recommend you use it either with counter backup or as the follow up card to your first kill spell so you can hit all the Faeries once they Sprite your first spell. In absence of these two, any point and click removal can help your cause a lot, whether it's the overkill Flame Slash or the free spell Gut Shot that can give Green decks a shot in the arm.

  2. Play Green Flier Hate. Currently, the weapon of choice seeing the most play is Scattershot Archer which combines excellently with Quirion Ranger. But you have many options. Aerial Volley is a nice one now that most delver decks have eschewed playing Spire Golem. Or Take Down is a nice diverse answer for a Golem populated world.

  3. Play Midrange. There's a lot of overlap between this strategy and the first one. Remember a time when Cuombajj Witches were the bane of Delver? Adding Lightning Bolt has shored up that weakness a lot better than Vapor Snag could, but Delver still can struggle against decks that both can answer their threats and outdraw them over a lot game, especially since Delver relies so heavily on its creature suite for card advantage. Chittering Rats is still a pretty powerful play against Delver, though beware that it can help them set up their draws for Augur of Bolas or for flipping Delver of Secrets. Out of the sideboard, Stormbound Geist is both tough to removal and a stonewall blocker against 1/1 fliers. Even decks that can progress their board without employing threats, like with Karoo lands can help draw the game out with Delver to a pace where their resources better Delver’s.


  1. Stompy

Young Wolf Burning-Tree Emissary Hunger of the Howlpack

Stompy is the most efficient raw Aggro deck in the format. It has a diversity of threats that make it resilient to removal. It can go wide or go tall. And it got a shot in the arm from BTE that allows it to have incredible plays on the first two turns of the game by deploying 3 or even 4 threats before the opponent can effectively respond. So how do you overcome the little green menace?

  1. Control the Tempo. The deck that has the most built-advantages against Stompy is Delver. Between Spellstutter Sprite’s built-in counter to Augur of Bolas efficient blocking body and card advantage to the ability to switch back and forth from the threat to the answer, Delver has the flexibility to combat Stompy very well even more in Game 1 then after sideboards.

  2. Play sweepers. The two best ones in the format right now are Evincar's Justice out of UB Control decks and Swirling Sandstorm out of UR Delver which conveniently doesn't even kill your fliers! If you can survive the early turns and get a 3-for-1, you'll be in great shape, especially since Aggro decks like Stompy have so little inherent card advantage.

  3. Play lifegain. There are two ways to do this: one is incidental life gain from cards Radiant Fountain and Lone Missionary. The other is dedicated lifegain like from Soul Warden and Wellwisher. In both these cards, your aim is to move the goalposts so that the Aggro deck can't finish the job in the time they had planned.

  4. Play the right removal. Midrange and Control decks need to really keep on top of their metagame to be effective. In a world where Young Wolf is the format’s most played creature, jamming 4 Chainer's Edict can make you look foolish. I recommend Magma Spray as a main deck or sideboard card. Other exile effects like Journey to Nowhere also go up in value because they remove a threat without letting a creature hit the graveyard to trigger morbid or undying.


  1. Affinity

ThoughtcastMyr EnforcerAtog

Affinity is a highly synergistic Aggro deck that can win via raw power, card advantage or with the combo kill of Atog plus Fling or Temur Battle Rage. For an Aggro deck, Affinity routinely gets to do unfair things like drop multiple 4/4s on turn 3, draw 2 cards for 1 blue mana or 3 fresh cards for only 1U via Perilous Research or keep up the combo kill at instant speed for the Oops, I win. Fortunately, Affinity is also the most hateable deck.

  1. Play artifact hate. Gorilla Shaman is the best hate card in Pauper. It's so effective that many Affinity pilots sideboard in Hydroblast against any opponent running red mana. Other good artifact hate includes Gleeful Sabotage in green and Dust to Dust in white. If you're on the Aggro plan yourself, I recommend Smash to Smithereens which against an artifact heavy deck looks a lot like Searing Blaze.

  2. Play right sized removal. I love Flame Slash as an efficient answer to Affinity’s 4/4s. Even though Affinity often runs Flayer Husk as a counter strategy, I also like edicts vs Affinity since they can't be avoided easily with instant speed counters or by Perilous Research.

  3. Counter the Fling. If you can survive Affinity’s early rush, usually the only creature you're worried about is a giant Atog, particularly one that has been flung at your face. Hold a counter or ensure that you have enough cards to avoid the combo kill and you should be able to outlast them.


  1. Tron (All Varieties)

Urza's Tower Pulse of Murasa Mnemonic Wall

Tron’s abundance of mana creates the conditions for the ultimate in go-over-the-top long game Magic. Ironically, for a deck that runs main deck 12-14 colorless lands, most Tron decks run 3-5 colors of mana with a few outliers of mono blue control Tron and mono Green fast mana Tron. The most common builds of Tron win either with a combo finish to bounce all the opponent’s permanents via Dinrova Horror and Ghostly Flicker or by recurring resources with Pulse of Murasa plus Mnemonic Wall and Mulldrifter. If you're not closing the game out by about turn 6 vs a Tron deck, or are in a dominant board position to quickly do so, Good luck. So how do we beat this inevitability driven deck?

  1. Be the Aggro. Tron needs time to set up. If you can flood the board with cheap, efficient threats, the Tron player is going to be unable to answer all your threats and will be desperately digging to extend the game so they can catch up.

  2. Attack their resources. Tron needs a delicate mix of correct Tron lands for acceleration, mana fixing to cast its colored spells and gas to get ahead. It also frequently utilizes the graveyard like a 2nd hand as a store pile for recurrent resources. If you can attack them on one or more of these resource axes, you can be disruptive enough to close out the game. Personally, I think the most important card in Tron is Prophetic Prism since it allows the Tron player to convert their copious colorless mana to playing colored spells. Without it, Tron pilots are often limited to only playing 1 spell per turn. Other disruption tactics could include hand attack like Duress, land destruction like Molten Rain or counterspells like Pyroblast.

  3. Become the Monarch. Know what Tron doesn't do a lot of? Attacking. If you can slam a turn four Monarch, either via Palace Sentinels or (Throne of the Black Rose), there's a very good chance they'll never be able to take it away.


  1.  Hexproof

Slippery BogleEthereal ArmorRancor

Much like Hexproof operates in Modern, Pauper Bogles succeeds by attacking from a different angle than other creature based decks. By decklist alone it can blank a significant portion of an opponent’s 60, especially since in an Aggro heavy metagame, red removal is very popular. The fragility of Hexproof is that in order to be effective in ending the game quickly the pilot must usually stack multiple auras on a single creature to ensure both overwhelming and also evasion. For this reason the best way to beat Hexproof is with a few specific sideboard cards:

  1. Play Sweepers. I prefer Electrickery but if you don't have access to red, three good black solutions are Shrivel / Nausea, Wail of the Nim and the newest member of the pack, Cower in Fear.

  2. Play Edicts. Can't target a creature? No problem. The trick to edicts however is to build you deck either in a way to isolate the large threat or to be able to respond at instant speed. Most Hexproof decks run a combination of Young Wolf, Khalni Garden or Cartouche of Solidarity to insulate their large threat from edicts. So be prepared to handle other x/1s too.

  3. Play Duress. - Hexproof, like Tron, requires a combination of pieces to go off, usually mana, a threat, and two or more auras. It's also a deck that must mulligan more often than normal to find all its pieces. To disrupt this plan, an early Duress can be very effective.

  4. Play Fogs. What good is a large attacker if it can't connect? The best ones are (Moment’s Peace) and Prismatic Strands since they can blank two attacks, but Tangle can work too or even basic Fog. Some decks even run Circle of Protection: Green, though I would be careful since most GW decks pack plenty of enchantment hate in their sideboards.

  5. Play Standard Bearer. This same card also is good at hating out Kiln Fiend, Infect, and isn't bad against Stompy. A neat budget option is Coalition Honor Guard though be cautious that Turn 4 against a combo deck is often too late. 


I hope you enjoyed this exercise in hate, or to use a less aggressive word, counter strategies.


I'll be back next week with five more Pauper decks and the tools to beat them


- SteveJeltz




Great article, thanks for by MichelleWong at Tue, 06/20/2017 - 12:12
MichelleWong's picture

Great article, thanks for posting.

Regarding the Bogles matchup, Serene Heart is almost as backbreaking as Standard Bearer and provides a great answer at every stage of the match (although it's less flexible overall against the field, and thus the players who choose to run it only include the Heart as a 1-of and no doubt this is why you didn't mention it in your list).

Aura Flux is a weapon which the blue players have access to which is also powerful against Bogles but useless against everyone else (and be wary - it only slows the Bogles player down; I have won through Fluxes before).

Ray of Revelation and to a lesser extent Gleeful Sabotage are also very effective against Bogles because there are often only 2 backbreaking auras on the field.

Great article, thanks for by MichelleWong at Tue, 06/20/2017 - 12:10
MichelleWong's picture

(Also we say Thorn of the Black Rose, not Throne.)