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By: SpikeBoyM, Alex Ullman
Jan 11 2016 1:00pm
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 To say I was excited for Oath of the Gatewatch would be an accurate statement. Despite the fact that some of the more exciting cards from the set were spoiled ahead of schedule I was looking forward to what the final set in the Battle for Zendikar block had to offer Pauper. With the full spoiler released, it now feels like my anticipation was not met.

Do not get me wrong - Oath of the Gatewatch is jam packed with good stuff and there are cards sure to make an impact in Pauper. At the same time the commons feel narrow. The limited scope of the commons is not an accident - the small set nature of Oath combined with the fact it will supply two packs for booster draft means that the commons have to do some serious work to support limited. Two major themes in the set are Colorless Mana and Allies. Neither of these have made waves in Pauper and Oath of the Gatewatch is not likely to change that fact.
The Ally creature type has been around since Pauper was first sanctioned. While cards like Oran-Rief Survivalist are independently strong the entire population of common Allies pale in comparison to a tribe like Slivers. The benefit of investing in Allies is not worth the cost and so they fall by the wayside. Cohort, the ability word wherein two Allies tap for a benefit, does nothing to change this reality.
While colorless mana is abundant in Pauper thanks to various lists build around UrzaTron - (Urza’s Mine), (Urza’s Power Plant), and (Urza’s Tower) - Colorless as a theme is tough to pull off. Ancient Stirrings is a fantastic tutor and the ability of that card to go fetch Scour from Existence should not be underrated. At the same time Tron is the only deck that can reliably utilize cards from Kozilek’s lineage due to the nature of Pauper mana bases. The lands in Pauper either need to serve a special purpose - see Kuldotha Jeskai, Affinity, and Tron - or have to be iron clad as to not disrupt the tempo of the deck - Delver, MBC, and Stompy. The strength of the colorless cards in this set is not enough to warrant warping the way decks are built and as such are likely to not see play.
Compounding these issues is the fact that the top of the Pauper standings are relatively stagnant. Both Delver and Esper Combo are poised to finish as the two best decks of the Battle for Zendikar season and none of the cards coming to Magic Online in a few weeks looks to change that fact. The threshold for a card’s entry into competitive Pauper is high and the bar for impacting the metagame in a meaningful way is even higher. Oath of the Gatewatch provides plenty of options but little in the way of a Gray Merchant of Asphodel sized shift.
I’ve already discussed a few cards at length - check out this article for my thoughts on Crumbling Vestige and Holdout Settlement and this piece for my take on Goblin Freerunner.
And on to the new cards!



Dazzling Reflection presents the latest in a long line of strong sideboard options for white. The effect is not new - Awe Strike functioned in a similar manner except that it prevents the damage and then gains its controller life equal to the amount prevented. Dazzling Reflection flips this and reverses it making it so the lifegain happens first and then damage is prevented.
The most obvious application for this card is to come out of the sideboard against Kiln Fiend and Atog decks. Extracting value from Reflection against Affinity may be a challenge. Overstuffing an Atog and attacking is only half the plan and casting Fling in response to Reflection does not work out well for the white mage. Recently some Affinity pilots have been turning to Temur Battle Rage, which makes Dazzling Reflection stronger.
Against Izzet Blitz the best use of Dazzling Reflection is in response to them casting (Apostle’s Blessing). At this point the Reflection will stop any attack and gain a healthy amount of life. If you are able to set up blockers (something at which White Tokens excels) Dazzling Reflection has the ability to blunt the assault of two spell based attackers. It does all this while also sidestepping Flaring Pain - something Awe Strike did not accomplish.


What happens when you take the worst parts of Righteous Blow and Last Breath and you jam them together? You end up with Searing Light. While on the surface the ability to remove any attacker with two power seems great - this hits almost everything in Delver less Insectile Aberration and does a number on most non-Gurmag Angler cards - it has some significant limitations. Searing Light also requires the creature must be attacking which may not appear like much of a drawback until you glance at Gray Merchant. One reason I am a fan of Last Breath (and to a lesser extent Complete Disregard) is because they can remove a Gray Merchant with the trigger on the stack. While this does not stop a drain from occurring it does help to reduce the swing in life totals. Searing Light cannot do this. Searing Light does not exile and multiple decks in Pauper make use of the graveyard. The advantage that Light does have is that it costs a single mana. It would not surprise me if this Instant saw play but I would not be shocked if it never resolved in a game of competitive Pauper.


Izzet Blitz has lessened its reliance on Shadow Rift, Distortion Strike, and Artful Dodge in favor of (Apostle’s Blessing) and Temur Battle Rage. Slip Through Space upgrades Shadow Rift to full unblockable status at the cost of Instant speed. Like every cheap blue and red instant or sorcery, it deserves a look as a potential upgrade in powering up Nivix Cyclops and Kiln Fiend. Whether it deserves more than just a look will depend entirely on the metagame shifts in the future.


Umara Entangler is reminiscent of (Mage-Ring) Bully in that it is outclassed by both Nivix Cyclops and Kiln Fiend. There may come a day where the blue decks of the format want a base two power creature with Prowess, but that day does not appear to be anytime soon.


The ability to lock down a creature for a single mana cannot be underestimated. Is this enough to make Containment Membrane worth a slot? It is in the right colors as blue has access to all the good cheap spells - Ponder, Preordain, and Gitaxian Probe lead the way - and could stop any creature after it connects once. Yet this may not be enough. A deck like Stompy could lean on Quirion Ranger while Izzet Blitz could use (Apostle’s Blessing) to break the lock later. Against a card like (Ulamog’s Crusher) the damage is done after a single hit. Containment Membrane is at its best against pure power and toughness meaning its best home may be as a sideboard option against Gurmag Angler. Rush of Ice was not good enough and it is doubtful this version is much better.


Is Unnatural Endurance the card that puts an aggressive black deck into the top tier? Boon of Erebos is nearly identical except that the Devoid version does not come with a life loss rider. Unnatural Endurance’s bonus to power is not enough in a world with Fling and Temur Battle Rage, nor does the regeneration obsolete removal with Disfigure and (Chainer’s Edict) running rampant. Is Unnatural Endurance the answer? Maybe, but it’s partial credit at best.


Let’s talk about Blightning. Blightning is a powerful card that has not yet found a home in Pauper. Part of this is the lack of Bloodbraid Elf to wheel one into play for free. Another piece is that there are no Planeswalkers to redirect the three damage for even more card advantage. Finally, with so much incidental lifegain in the format, forcing a player to simply discard two is only so good. Witness the End costs one more than Blightning but lacks the red requirement. It also causes life loss and exiles the offending cards. As Unearth, Grim Harvest, and Gurmag Angler have proven time and time again having cards in the graveyard matters. Witness the End provides an option for decks looking to fight on the axis of card economy.


Corpse Churn. Is anyone out there surprised that this is probably my favorite card in the set? Being able to dig three deep for a creature OR filling your yard while getting back your best threat are both attractive lines of play. The obvious home is in Dimir Delver as a way to get back a dead Gurmag Angler while also providing some free mana for future Delve.
Corpse Churn has the potential to power up the much loved Tortured Existence decks. Part of the issue with Tortured Existence is that they need both cards in the graveyard and the eponymous enchantment to be effective. Using Corpse Churn to both populate the bin and get back a card - say Auramancer- opens up the creature based value decks to even more colors.
Corpse Churn has all the elements of a powerhouse as it basically lets you choose the best creature from the top of your library or your graveyard. Finding the right home does not appear to be to high of a hurdle.


Reality Hemorrhage can kill creatures through protection. Like Complete Disregard it has a home whenever protection matters. Considering the number of times I’ve mentioned (Apostle’s Blessing) in this article Reality Hemorrhage may be a common sight as it kills Kiln Fiend no matter what.


Brute Strength is another option for red Heroic decks that have long existed at the fringes of the format.


Twin Bolt has started to see more play as a flexible card that is well suited to take out annoying 1/1 flyers. Sparkmage’s Gambit is more rigid as a Sorcery AND it has to hit two creatures. However in decks that care about blockers it has the bonus of acting as a Falter in a pinch. While this is no Electrickery it retains some maindeck utility and may warrant a slot.


Nest Invader has been a role player for years. For two mana the Eldrazi Drone provides two bodies, two power, and Edict resilience. Now Scion Summoner comes to town and matches up rather nicely against its ancestor. For three mana the Summoner spreads three power across two bodies. Three mana value creatures have been a staple of the format and Scion Summoner looks to join the proud tradition of Chittering Rats, Phyrexian Rager, and Trinket Mage. Producing an offensive threat (even one with a single point of power) means that Scion Summoner should be considered in aggressive decks. The only reason that Nest Invader should continue to get the nod is the discount on cost. Stompy, however, maybe be able to mitigate this and still find home for a copy or two as a curve topper. In more adventurous realms, Scion Summoner provides quite a bit of offense when combined with Nantuko Husk and Carrion Feeder while also being the perfect size to retrieve with Unearth.


Lead by Example is a card I want in my sideboard. The ability to add +1/+1 counters to creatures at instant speed is strong as a combat trick. I am fond of cards like this in Hexproof as a way to fight Electrickery. Often times Hexproof will attempt to go wide to fight removal and Lead by Example allows the deck to have an out to one damage sweepers. While this is no Travel Preparations on raw power, the fact it is an Instant makes it a valuable option.


Natural State is a cheap card that helps green decks play a tempo positive game. While it does miss Spire Golem, Pestilence, and Myr Enforcer, it does hit almost every other heavily played Artifact and Enchantment in the format. I tend to put an emphasis on cost effective cards and while Natural State may not hit every problem in the Pauper, it hits enough that it is going to warrant consideration for many of my green decks.


How much would you pay for an instant speed Raise Dead that drew you a card? What if that card was always a free copy of Nourish? Three mana sounds about right, so Pulse of Murasa is not an unfair card by any stretch. The ability to regrow your best creature and buff your life total is enticing. The problem is the two abilities fight two different decks. Six life is great against aggressive decks that do not care about your board while retrieving a dead creature does wonders against removal heavy control decks. I fully expect to see Pulse of Murasa see play - the rate is spot on- but it seems to be an odd set of abilities stitched together.


Finally we come to Seer’s Lantern. A more expensive Darksteel Pendant that can tap for a colorless, the Lantern wants to be in the same decks as Pristine Talisman. The problem is that Pristine Talisman decks need that particular mana rock to help offset the life lost from repeatedly casting (Evincar’s Justice). Could these decks make space for a single Lantern as a way to increase card quality over the course of a game.

Another set in the books. As Pauper moves forward and the banned list update looms, it will be interesting to see if the landscape of the format changes. If that happens, maybe more cards from Oath of the Gatewatch will see play.

Keep slingin’ commons-


SpikeBoyM on Magic Online


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Expert Analysis by ComixWriter at Mon, 01/11/2016 - 20:07
ComixWriter's picture

Thanks for these reviews, Alex! I enjoyed your take on the Goblin Freerunner best, and wonder about its future utility.

As someone who enjoys Standard Pauper, I must now assume this format is largely dead, except for its small resolute pool. Even rremedio bemoans this new set, and sees no clear winner aside from WotC. Other reviewers refers pauper formats sans the standard inclusion, I suppose due to the loss of the filter. This means advice about pauper cards' uses in this set get little attention for this format, or are presented as flat when new cards are referenced.

It seems like nobody is excited about Standard Pauper, anymore.

I would hope to see how you may use your favorite new common is a zombie token deck, with Undead Servant and Corpse Churn.

From only what you know off the top of your head, Alex- what commons do you see having an impact in Standard? Surely, nothing like duress resides in the new set, but it did get at least sideboard (and sometime maindeck) in Standard decks. Will there be a run on certain commons, do you expect? I don't know what to expect about the availability of commons, now, due to the state of Standard, Standard Pauper, and the new smaller sets' cards.

Thanks, Alex.

I agree with your assessment by JMason at Tue, 01/12/2016 - 15:23
JMason's picture

I agree with your assessment that there's not much going on at common. Aside from Allies versus Eldrazi there's only really surge, cohort and support spread thinly around.
In pauper I don't really see anything that will immediately have a home, except possibly Pulse of Murasa in green tron.
I like the look of black best for standard pauper, it gets decent evasion and removal. Kozilek's Pathfinder will probably find a home as a wincon.
A very average set overall.

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