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By: SpikeBoyM, Alex Ullman
Apr 13 2015 12:00pm
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I do not get to play as much Magic as I’d like to most days. The older I get and the more responsibilities I manage to acquire, the less time I have to log in and sling spells. That is, in part, why I started tracking the Pauper metagame using the daily decklists from the Mothership. This feature allowed me to immerse myself in the format on days when I didn’t have the minutes available to get games in myself. It grants me the ability understand the current trends and discuss Pauper decks and potential new impact cards in a way I could not if I was simply experiencing the format through Daily Events. Of course when that feature is down (as it is at the time of writing), I have to get my fix somehow.

Usually that means taking a look at the last known information I have and figuring out something new to play. My time is limited, but it most certainly exists, and if I am going to play I want to make sure I’m using that time for fun. Now while I definitely have fun winning, I always have a little more when I win with something new (adding that to my Fearless Magical Inventory).

So what do we know? We know that with the recent ban of Treasure Cruise the format has shifted to a landscape somewhat similar to that of the pre-Khans of Tarkir era. Mono-Black Control and Delver Blue find themselves at the top of the format with Affinity, Izzet Blitz, and Stompy not far behind. This spectrum runs from the incredibly quick aggro-combo decks to attrition based control. The format seems to have achieved a sense of balance - these five represent the the most popular options, but there are many other decks making regular appearances.

The reintroduction of MBC has changed the nature of dealing with creatures in Pauper. Before Dragons of Tarkir and the associated ban tempo mattered far more than it does currently. Bounce such as Vapor Snag and Repeal were attractive options in part because they did not help to fuel Treasure Cruise but also because there were rather few creatures with strong enters the battlefield effects. MBC experiences success on the backs of cards like Chittering Rats and Gray Merchant of Asphodel. Putting creatures such as these back into their owner’s hands is not exactly a winning proposition. Because of this hard removal is once again en vogue.

The return of Doom Blade style effects has had wide reaching repercussions. MBC  has become more popular in part to its ability to run a veritable boatload of removal. MBC itself has adapted to include some number of Gurmag Angler as a threat. Gurmag Angler manages to dodge one of the better removal spells in the format in Flame Slash while also sidestepping Victim of Night, taking into account some common answers. In turn decks that are susceptible to black removal are not nearly as popular. Creatures are fragile so going wide appears to be a reasonable route except the return of mono-black also heralds the coming of Crypt Rats. Token strategies powered by Battle Screech, once a viable way to attack in Pauper, have been rendered largely on the fringe. The Presence of Gond and Midnight Guard combo deck does exist but does so in a relatively small corner and can sometimes simply ignore the sweeping rodent.

The removal renaissance redirects to a realm where resilience reigns. Creatures that have a built in protection against death are far more attractive than their single lived brethren. Stompy succeeds in some part because Young Wolf is so good against kill spells. When Pauper reaches this juncture I smile just a little bit. It is times like these when one of my favorite strategies rears its head. I’m talking of course about the Aristocrats. 

What is The Aristocrats? 

Named for Cartel Aristocrat and Falkenrath Aristocrat, the Aristocrats is a sacrifice and death trigger based deck, designed by Sam Black and used by Tom Martell to win Pro Tour Gatecrash.


The story behind this deck is rather interesting and I recommend reading both Sam Black’s and Tom Martell’s retelling. The deck is an intricate work of art with numerous internal synergies that may not not have even been the best deck at the event it won. The Aristocrats experienced a moderate amount of tournament success after the Pro Tour but never really found the confluence of cards to bring it back to the top.

That did not stop me from trying to make the deck work in Pauper. This article recounts my attempts in the wake of Pro Tour Gatecrash to translate the deck to a world with only commons. While I started on an Orzhov build before realizing I want to pair my black cards with Islands and settled on a deck I dubbed Blue Bloods.


Pauper Deck Alex Ullman
4 Carrion Feeder
4 Cloudfin Raptor
4 Dregscape Zombie
4 Man-o'-War
4 Mulldrifter
4 Screeching Skaab
4 Stormbound Geist
4 Viscera Dragger
32 cards

Other Spells
4 Agony Warp
4 Unearth
8 cards
8 Island
8 Swamp
4 Dimir Guildgate
20 cards
Viscera Dragger


Moving forward two years, Pauper has gained access to the synergies promoted by the Sultai Brood and Dragonclan Silumgar. Their obsession with death is my gain and the Exploit mechanic has provided a small bounty of new options. Before looking at these, let’s talk about the different elements of a successful Aristocrats. In his “Making Sacrifices in Standard” Sam Black beaks down and defines the creatures that let the Aristocrats live their life of luxury.

First we have the Aristocrats themselves. These are the sacrifice outlets and let you convert previous investments into something new. The most well known version of this in Pauper is probably Carrion Feeder

Other Aristocrats include: Viscera Seer, Bloodthrone Vampire, Falkenrath Torturer, Nantuko Husk (and descendants), Phyrexian Broodlings, creatures with Exploit, Mogg Raider/Goblin Sledder (for Goblins).

The Travelers, named for Doomed Traveler, are creatures one actively wants to sacrifice for some benefit. Doomed Traveler is one such card, but Perilous Myr  and Mogg War Marshal also fill the ranks.

Other Travelers include: Myr Sire, creatures with Undying, Jeskai Sage, Palace Familiar/Suveiling Sprite, Sultai Emissary, Undead Executioner.

Fodder are creatures you can sacrifice but don’t actually need to do so to extract value. Safehold Elite is a perfect example of this category. A more subtle one is Mulldrifter which can be evoked and then sacrificed for benefit.

Other Fodder includes creatures with Persist, Blind Hunter, Battle Screech, creatures with Evoke.

Finally there are Artists, named for Blood Artist. These are the cards the generate positive value when another creature dies. The most well known member of this clan in Pauper is probably Hissing Iguanar, but Unruly Mob fits the bill nicely.

Other Artists include Selhoff Occultist, Deathgreeter.

So where did that leave me? Knowing I wanted to be in blue and black I focused on Carrion Feeder and Viscera Seer as my Aristocrats of choice. Carrion Feeder seems innocuous but given enough time it can absolutely take over a game. Viscera Seer is another one drop that can help improve the quality of draws over the course of a game. From there I went to many of the cards that were present in my first blue version of the deck: Cloudfin Raptor, Stormbound Geist, Viscera Dragger, and Dregscape Zombie. Sultai Emissary replaced Butcher Ghoul due to working with Undying Evil. Perilous Myr found a home in the deck as an anti-beatdown option and Mulldrifter draws cards and helps the cause by dying.

I took the deck out for a few spins with Gurmag Drowner and Vulturous Aven before realizing what I really wanted was an excellent blocker. Sidisi’s Faithful was perfect for this as not only did it block but it also let me sacrifice creatures in for a tempo advantage. The ability to resist removal gives the deck potential against MBC so the deck can afford to give up some ground with the inclusion of the Kraken Hatchling/Man-o’-War hybrid.

Here is where I ended up: 

Pauper Deck Alex Ullman
3 Dregscape Zombie
3 Viscera Dragger
3 Viscera Seer
4 Carrion Feeder
4 Mulldrifter
4 Stormbound Geist
4 Cloudfin Raptor
3 Perilous Myr
28 cards

Other Spells
3 Sidisi's Faithful
4 Sultai Emissary
2 Snuff Out
3 Undying Evil
5 cards
8 Island
8 Swamp
4 Dismal Backwater
20 cards

Cloudfin Raptor

The goal here is to present as many hard to remove threats as possible while also advancing your offense. Both Carrion Feeder and Cloudfin Raptor are capable of ending a game on their own. Carrion Feeder is obvious in execution - send things to the graveyard and make the zombie bigger. Cloudfin Raptor has a lot of somewhat obscured synergies surrounding cards like Stormbound Geist, which can trigger the Raptor twice with a sacrifice outlet, and Sidisi’s Faithful, which when combined with Undying Evil let’s the Raptor grow to a 4/5 flyer. The new naga wizard may not look like much but it provides a key card that works with every other element of Blue Bloods. Synergy is important in a deck like this where every piece is designed to improve the adjacent cards.

Affinity and Izzet Blitz are tough matchups. The aggro-combo decks can simply race what we are trying to do. Sylvok Lifestaff out of the sideboard can help blunt the assault and Snuff Out can take out a Myr Enforcer or Atog for free.

Delver and Stompy are fair to good matchups depending on draws. Against Delver the key cards are Perilous Myr, Sidisi’s Faithful, Cloudfin Raptor, and Stormbound Geist. The latter two act as trumps to to their air force while the first two help to keep the board clear. Keep a sacrifice outlet at the ready to help decrease the efficacy of their Snaps.

Against Stompy the name of the game is block. While you can win game one it is far easier to win game two once Sylvok Lifestaff comes in and makes life a challenge for any assailant. Sidisi’s Faithful works wonders here again, coming down on turn one to help blunt an assault.

Sacrificing creatures is not just fun, in this deck it does good work. The ability to present cheap large threats and the fact it can hold its own with some of the format’s best means I’ll be keeping this build at the ready for the weeks to come. 

Keep slingin’ commons-

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In my opinion you totally by Fragoel2 at Tue, 04/14/2015 - 11:46
Fragoel2's picture

In my opinion you totally overlooked the best exploit card printed for Pauper: Vulturous Aven. Not only it is a 4 mana Mulldrifter when you have body to throw away, but it also has a very relevant body, since decks like MUC have a very hard time getting around a flying 3 toughness creature.

Vulturous Aven by SpikeBoyM at Tue, 04/14/2015 - 12:51
SpikeBoyM's picture

Not sure how I can be considered having overlooked it when I specifically mention having tried it in the article.